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Ask a biosafety officer

Can Nitrogen gas be used safely in my small lab?


I have a make-shift lab of approximately 1000 square feet. The doors are usually closed, though there is a small (1 foot diameter) permanently open vent in the ceiling. There is no active exhaust or circulation.

I need to bring in a Nitrogen gas tank to support some scientific equipment. I know how to mount the tank to the wall and use proper regulators, but I am wondering if it is safe to do so considering the space is fairly enclosed. I am worried about what would happen if there was a catastrophic release of Nitrogen, or if there was a smaller less detectable leak.

Do you think this would be safe, or what could be done to use Nitrogen safely in this space short of installing ventilation? Would an oxygen monitor be recommended in this situation?

Answer from a Biosafety Officer:

February 13, 2013

In general, installation of compressed gases in spaces without ventilation systems is not recommended.  If a single cylinder is installed in this type of space the doors to the space should remain open and users should be aware of the need to monitor for leakage.  If leakage occurs, the tank should be shutoff immediately and the users should leave the space.  The cylinder supplier should be contacted to examine and remove the damaged cylinder.


In the worst-case scenario (with the following assumptions:  Room height = standard 8 foot ceiling; room contains a single, K-size cylinder of pure Nitrogen gas) a catastrophic release of an entire cylinder of pure Nitrogen gas would reduce the oxygen concentration in the space described to approximately 20%.  In this case, an oxygen monitor would not be required since the oxygen concentration is expected to remain above 19.5%.