In addition to being essential to life, oxygen is a widely used chemical element in industry, meaning we couldn’t leave it out of the series of articles we post each month in celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table. Represented by the symbol ‘O’, it is the third most abundant element in the universe and the most abundant in the earth’s crust, making up practically half of its mass. One fifth of air (in volume) is oxygen, and that air is where the oxygen used in industry is obtained, by means of liquefaction and fractional distillation. It can also be produced through electrolysis of water.
Half of all global oxygen production is destined for smelting, refining, and producing steel and other metals. The second most common use, which represents one fourth of commercially used oxygen, is in the production of chemical products through controlled oxidation. The elements also stands out for its medical applications, as a bleaching agent, disinfectant, and cleaning agent, as well as in the production of stone, glass, and plastic. Other interesting uses of oxygen include rocket propulsion and breathing aids in airplanes, submarines, space flights, and scuba diving.
What makes oxygen such a popular element in industry? Víctor Hebrard, product manager for Grupo Barcelonesa, explains that “it is a powerful oxidising agent, meaning it is useful in processes such as bleaching paper and clothing, disinfecting water, surfaces, and equipment, and in industrial cleaning processes, among others”. On the other hand, Hebrard points out that “because it is highly reactive, it is used in multiple chemical reactions to produce new substances, for example oxygenated water”. This is so true that almost all the elements in the periodic table form compounds with oxygen, a very important part of organic chemistry.
At Grupo Barcelonesa, we offer a variety of products that contain oxygen, such as oxygenated water (hydrogen peroxide), oxalic acid, peracetic acid, various oxides (Ca, Zn, Mg, Fe, CI) and peroxides”, explains Hebrard. The product manager places special emphasis on the company’s capacity to “ensure safe storage of substances in optimal conditions, with the highest SEVESO security measures at our BARNASTOCK warehouse”. The latter is no small point, given that some oxygen-containing products are highly explosive if not handled with due care.