Are Oxygen Tanks Flammable

Are Oxygen Tanks Flammable?

Throughout the world, Gaseous oxygen is packed, transported & used in compressed gas cylinders by a multitude of industries. This versatile & portable packaging of oxygen is used for breathing gas ( scuba diving, medical, aircraft, etc.,), combustion (welding, cutting, etc.,), and other applications which include laboratory-scale experimentation in metal refining, power, and chemical processing industries. Can the oxygen tanks explode if dropped? – All compressed gas cylinders should be handled with caution because of their high-pressure contents which are capable to turn a cylinder into a speed rocket if dropped.

There are many trusted sources that educate people on oxygen cylinder safety, dangers of oxygen cylinders, etc., For information about pressure-related hazards of compressed gas cylinders, there are multiple useful resources from regulatory agencies like OSHA and trade associations like the Compressed Gas Association (CGA).

Gaseous Oxygen (GOX) Cylinders Pose a Unique Hazard

The risk of fire. And for such a reason, they require special and careful handling and operating practices that may differ from other compressed gas. Gaseous oxygen tanks are usually fitted with a valve-integrated pressure regulator (VIPR) or a stand-alone cylinder valve. Stand-alone cylinder valve requires special handling as they are connected to a stand-alone regulator or a manifold.

While VIPRs require not much special handling because both the regulator and the cylinder valve are combined in one device. Also, users must ensure that they follow the manufacturer’s instructions and should stay away from contaminating the ports of the VIPR ( Fill Port). Regardless of whatever the application may be, all oxygen cylinder users should be aware of the best practices to make safe use of it.

Fundamentals of Oxygen Safety

Do you remember the ‘Fire Triangle’ illustration that we learned in our science class? The Fire Triangle includes 3 sides which means it needs three factors for a fire to occur: fuel, oxidizer, and ignition. In compressed oxygen tanks, it is the pure oxygen gas that acts as an oxidizer and makes the material (fuel) flammable so that it easily ignites.

So basically a compressed cylinder has one of the 3 primary elements that are required for a fire to occur.

Almost 21% of our atmosphere is made of oxygen. Though it is not of high concentration it is sufficient enough to ignite & burn many materials in the presence of a heat source or energy. As oxygen concentration and pressure increase, materials tend to burn easily.

Even the stainless steel components present in the regulator can ignite & burn with the oxidizer provided in a compressed oxygen cylinder.

Oxygen safety is all about reducing the risk by limiting any potential ignition or fuel sources in an oxygen environment.

1. Contaminants like Greases & Oils (HydroCarbon – Based)

They may be of no harm in ambient air but they tend to become extremely dangerous fuels when there is oxygen present.

2. Small Particle Contaminants

When the compressed oxygen gets impacted it can provide the fuel for metal shavings & other small debris to ignite.

3. Fast Pressurization

Some valve styles like ball valves, cylinder valves, etc., open quickly & can pressurize systems that include compressed oxygen; this creates sufficient heat to ignite materials & cause a fire.

While using oxygen, it is crucial to understand what are the hazards of oxygen. The main causes of fire & explosion while using oxygen are listed below:

  • Oxygen enrichment from equipment that is leaking
  • Use of materials that are not compatible with oxygen
  • Use of oxygen in equipment that is not compatible with oxygen service
  • Incorrect / Careless operation of oxygen equipment

Knowing that oxygen tanks are a fire risk involved equipment, it is also important to learn the oxygen cylinder safety precautions:

  • Store oxygen cylinders upright with valve outlet seals and valve protection caps in place
  • Secure cylinders when in use, transit, or use
  • Store cylinders in a place that is designated for that purpose
  • Separate empty & full cylinders
  • Keep the cylinders in an area that has good ventilation and store them away from combustible materials
  • Store only the needed amount of compressed gas for the specific application
  • Prohibit smoking or use of naked flames where oxygen tanks are stored
  • Oxygen tanks should always be inspected on a routine basis to avoid leakage or any other problems


1. Are oxygen tanks explosive?

Though oxygen is not a flammable gas, it acts as an oxidizer by making the materials flammable. When oxygen is used in the wrong way it can lead to an explosion.

2. Are medical oxygen tanks flammable?

Oxygen in the cylinder can act as an oxidizer & may lead to a fire.

3. Can an oxygen tanks catch fire?

Yes, oxygen cylinders can catch fire. Compressed oxygen at high pressure can react violently with some common materials like oil, grease, etc

4. Can Oxygen tanks explode if the gas is ignited?

The presence of oxygen can increase the fire quickly & become explosive.


Read Also : Are Food Allergies Inherited?


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