Nitrox has been a key component to many technical divers’ scuba routine for over 2 decades now and, once most of the “voodoo gas” myths were dispelled, nitrox has been more than favorably received by the sport diving community as well. However, it is still not commonly used among the many different public safety diving teams out there. The costs of nitrox used by departments and teams can certainly vary based on the equipment that is required to suit the demands of the teams.
There are several different ways in which nitrox can be “created” but the three most popular are: with a nitrox membrane system on a compressor, using a continuous blending system or through partial pressure gas blending. The costs associated with these methods can vary greatly depending on the final goals, as well as on the current equipment at hand. Public safety teams can also keep their tanks filled with air or nitrox by using the services of their local SDI-TDI-ERDi dive facility.
If the dive team already has a compressor to fill tanks, you may want to explore the option of purchasing a compatible nitrox membrane system or the continuous blending system. Many departments may find that purchasing this “add on” to their current compressor can run up costs anywhere from $7,000.00 to $25,000.00 depending on the system. The membrane system works (in a very simplified explanation) by removing nitrogen from the air generated by the compressor, thus elevating the amounts of oxygen – in most situations up to 40%. A strong benefit is that it is rather simple to use and provides quick results as well. Still, there may be some low additional maintenance costs to consider.
Partial pressure blending is a far “cheaper” way to make nitrox, but it can be more time consuming based on the amount of tanks that require filling. There must also be a staff member that has the proper gas blending training on hand in order to produce nitrox by blending. The biggest costs affiliated with partial pressure gas blending are the oxygen tanks, which store the O2 used to blend with regular air to reach the required mix. Medical or aviation oxygen (recommended) may vary greatly in costs based on location. 49.9 cubic ft oxygen cylinders, or a “K cylinder”, may range in costs anywhere between $250.00 through $350.00. The expense to fill these tanks may also vary greatly, based on the remoteness of the location and accessibility of O2 in the general area. Refills can run, on average, anywhere from $20.00 to $60.00 each.
The continuous blending system is a perfect fit for departments that have their own compressor and easy access to oxygen cylinders. This system works by putting a ‘nitrox stick’ in-line with the intake of the compressor and attaching the oxygen cylinder to the nitrox stick. The oxygen blends with the ambient air prior to entering the compressor. There is an oxygen analyzer at the end of the stick which indicates the mix of oxygen that will come out of the other side of the compressor to storage cylinders or be pumped directly into the dive cylinders. Some distinct advantages of this system are:if you have a compressor, there is a low initial cost, it’s easy set up and it uses all the oxygen that is in the oxygen storage cylinders.
The most cost effective way for smaller public safety teams to get their nitrox is from their local scuba dive center. Most dive centers generate their own via a membrane system or blending and offer tank refills to their customers. A single refill for a nitrox tank can range between $7.00 and $18.00…again, depending on the costs that the dive center has to incur in order to prepare a tank for their customers…location usually has a big affect on this.
Costs for the use of nitrox are also associated with dive gear, be it a recreational scuba diver or a public safety dive team. A big concern about the use of nitrox is the cost of purchasing new equipment that needs to be O2 “friendly.” In truth, most regulators out on the market are currently compatible to be used with nitrox mixes up to 40%. If dive teams are planning on using mixes of nitrox of 40% or greater, they will want to check with the manufacturer in order to verify compatibility with the mixes they are planning to use. The good news? You may already have the gear you need if you are just going to be using the standard 32% or 36% mixes for your missions.
With heavy budgets and proper appropriation of grants, it is important for public safety dive teams that want to incorporate the use of nitrox into their dives – training and/or operational – to understand the cost benefits and what suits their team best.
- How many members are on the team?
- Will the team be using nitrox on every dive or just a select few?
- And of course the biggest question: what’s in the budget?
As stated, most dive teams simply use their local dive center to have their tanks refilled, but bigger teams that need to work beyond the scope of regular store hours find it more practical to generate their own refills. Go to your local SDI-TDI dive center and find out what they have for your team and how they can help you reach the goals of starting a scuba dive team that practices the use of nitrox when getting the job done.
Want to speak with one of our PSD Instructors and learn more about Nitrox for your team? Come visit us at one of our upcoming events:
|Mukilteo WA||Lighthouse Park||PSD Event||Aug 10, 2012|
|Ottawa OH||Gilboa Quarry||PSD Event||Sept 7, 2012|
|Metroplouis IL||Mermet Springs||PSD Event||Sept 21, 2012|
|Rawlings VA||Lake Rawlings||PSD Event||Oct 19, 2012|
|Cheifland FL||Manatee Springs||PSD Event||Nov 2, 2012|
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