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16.4.3 Operation of Compressed Gas Cylinders

The cylinder valve hand wheel opens and closes the cylinder valve. The pressure relief valve is designed to keep a cylinder from exploding in case of fire or extreme temperature. Cylinders of very toxic gases do not have a pressure relief valve, but they are constructed with special safety features. The valve outlet connection is the joint used to attach the regulator. The pressure regulator is attached to the valve outlet connector in order to reduce the gas flow to a working level. The Compressed Gas Association has intentionally made certain types of regulators incompatible with certain valve outlet connections to avoid accidental mixing of gases that react with each other. Gases should always be used with the appropriate regulator. Do not use adaptors with regulators. The cylinder connection is a metal-to-metal pressure seal. Make sure the curved mating surfaces are clean before attaching a regulator to a cylinder. Do not use Teflon tape on the threaded parts, because this may actually cause the metal seal not to form properly. Always leak test the connection.
Here is a link to the Airgas material compatibility chart: as well as the available excess flow valves:
Basic Operating guidelines include:

  1. Make sure that the cylinder is secured.
  2. Attach the proper regulator to the cylinder. If the regulator does not fit, it may not be suitable for the gas you are using. 
  3. Attach the appropriate hose connections to the flow control valve. Secure any tubing with clamps so that it will not whip around when pressure is turned on. Use suitable materials for connections; toxic and corrosive gases require connections made of special materials.
  4. Install a trap between the regulator and the reaction mixture to avoid backflow into the cylinder.
  5. To prevent a surge of pressure, turn the delivery pressure adjusting screw counterclockwise until it turns freely and then close the flow control valve.
  6. Slowly open the cylinder valve hand wheel until the cylinder pressure gauge reads the cylinder pressure.
  7. With the flow control valve closed, turn the delivery pressure screw clockwise until the delivery pressure gauge reads the desired pressure.
  8. Adjust the gas flow to the system by using the flow control valve or another flow control device between the regulator and the experiment.
  9. After an experiment is completed, turn the cylinder valve off first, and then allow gas to bleed from the regulator. When both gauges read “zero”, remove the regulator and replace the protective cap on the cylinder head.
  10. When the cylinder is empty, mark it as “Empty”, and store empty cylinders separate from full cylinders.
  11. Attach a “Full/In Use/Empty” tag to all of your cylinders, these tags are perforated and can be obtained from the gas cylinder vendor.

Precautions to follow:

  • Use a regulator only with gas for which it is intended. The use of adaptors or homemade connectors has caused serious and even fatal accidents.
  • Toxic gases should be purchased with a flow-limiting orifice.
  • When using more than one gas, be sure to install one-way flow valves from each cylinder to prevent mixing. Otherwise accidental mixing can cause contamination of a cylinder.
  • Do not attempt to put any gas into a commercial gas cylinder.
  • Do not allow a cylinder to become completely empty. Leave at least 25 psi of residual gas to avoid contamination of the cylinder by reverse flow.
  • Do not tamper with or use force on a cylinder valve.