The growth of applications and uses of cryogenic substances across a wide number of industries has meant more and more companies are in search of the right equipment to handle them. Cryogenic containers are an often crucial part of this equipment, in charge of safely and efficiently storing and transporting substances that require cryogenic temperatures. 

In light of this growing need, at Cryospain we’ve wanted to assemble our knowledge in a brief but comprehensive guide about containers for storing cryogenic liquids. Keep reading to find out.

Cryogenic containers: what are they and their uses

Cryogenic containers can be defined as specialized vessels to store and transport materials at very low temperatures, typically below -150°C (-238°F). 

As such, they are designed to prevent heat transfer from the surrounding environment, thereby keeping the contents in a cryogenic state, as well as guaranteeing safety in operations such as storing and transporting gasses. 

While this is a global definition of a cryogenic tank container, the range of characteristics and features of cryogenic containers varies according to the different needs of cryogenic substances. 

As we’ve mentioned above, cryogenic systems are revolutionizing almost every industry: from extended and better medical applications, to the aerospace industry, energy sector or a number of cutting-edge industrial processes. In fact, their capacity to store and transport materials at cryogenic temperatures has opened the door to a wide range of possibilities in various fields of science, medicine, industry, and space exploration.

Some of the key areas in which cryogenic containers are often found today include:

Medical and pharmaceutical uses, from medical oxygen plants to the preservation of biological samples

The food and beverage sector is able to extend product preservation thanks to the use of cryogenic processes such as freezing and chilling

Industrial applications such as metal fabrication, welding, and cutting, all employ cryogenic substances and benefit from accessing safe and efficient cryogenic containers 

Research and laboratory applications such as cryogenic cooling of magnets for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and superconducting applications are in need of using vessels that can guarantee cryogenic conditions

Cryogenic containers are also used in state-of-the-art energy applications, such as in the storage and transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG). They’re also playing a key part in the development of the green hydrogen economy, as well as being used in cryogenic energy storage systems in power plants.

The storage and transportation of cryogenic propellants, such as  liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen used in cryogenic engines, has meant an added application of cryogenic containers for fields such as the automotive and aerospace industry.

Keep reading: Everything you need to know when choosing cryogenic tanks for gas storage

What gasses can be stored in cryogenic containers?

Generally speaking, all gasses and substances needing cryogenic temperatures to maintain their properties are in need of being stored in cryogenic containers. The following are some of the most important substances in this respect:

  1. Liquid and compressed hydrogen, facilitating further developments in carbon neutrality thanks to greener transportation and fuel options based on hydrogen.
  2. Liquid Nitrogen (LN2), at temperatures below -195.8°C (-320.4°F) and has applications in numerous fields, including the cryogenic storage of biological samples, cryosurgery and food freezing processes, among others. 
  3. Liquid Oxygen (LOX), at temperatures below -183°C (-297.4°F), which has become a crucial element in the medical and pharmaceutical sector, among many other sues
  4. Liquid nitrogen and Ultra High Purity Nitrogen, used in industries that need to ensure the elimination of even the slightest impurities in the gas stream.
  5. Liquefied Natural Gas, set to become a crucial energy source in the coming decades, as a cleaner-burning fuel in transportation

Characteristics of cryogenic containers

As it can be inferred from the definition above, cryogenic containers must be specially designed to store and transport materials at extremely low temperatures. This translates into a series of unique characteristics to effectively manage the challenges of handling and storing materials at cryogenic temperatures:

Some of the features that can be typically encountered in cryogenic containers include: 

They’re made of high-quality materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum and other specialized composites, thanks to their thermal properties and durability. The aim is to allow the containers to withstand the extreme temperatures and prevent leaks or safety hazards.

Broadly speaking, the structure of cryogenic containers presents three parts: an inner vessel (which contains the cryogenic material); an insulation system (which can include vacuum panels and/or layers of high-performance insulation materials that act as thermal barriers) and an outer vessel (acting as an additional layer of protection and structural support for the rest of the components, as well as enhanced durability).

Typical components in cryogenic containers also include those aiming at filling and dispensing processes include valves and different sorts of fittings

Cryogenic containers may also include a series of safety features and components. Some devices are used to provide potential pressure relief when needed, such as valves, considering the potential vaporization of cryogenic liquids. Others may be in charge of protection against hazards related to working with cryogenic substances, such as thermal shields and handles.

Some other components in a container aiming at storing cryogenic liquids will aim at facilitating transportation, including handles, casters, or transport racks.

Finally, a cryogenic tank container may present different sizes and capacities depending on the needs of the substance and company: from the small dewars used in laboratories to large-scale containers.

Related article: How is cryogenic energy storage used in nuclear power plants?

Specific regulations that should be considered for cryogenic containers

Due to the particular mission of cryogenic containers and their specific safety needs, they’re subject to a number of regulations. However, these may vary depending on the country, region, and specific application they’re intended for.

It’s possible, nonetheless, to provide an overview of some of the most common regulations related to cryogenic containers:

  • Standards by the American Petrol Industry, such as API 620 tanks
  • Regulations by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • The Pressure Equipment Directive (PED) in the European Union
  • Regulations by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 
  • The standards developed by the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) for the design, construction, and safe operation of cryogenic containers
  • If the cryogenic containers are used for transportation, they must comply with relevant regulations, such as the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code or the ones developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 

Additionally, national and local regulations must also be taken into account as they often cover important aspects. 

For instance, Cryospain’s flat-bottom cryogenic tanks are designed to comply with the following standards: 

Mechanical and seismic design:

  • API620, API650, ASME
  • EN14620, EN14015, EUROCODE

External access:

  • EN ISO14122-1/3
  • OSHA 1910.23/24

Other regulations used:

  • EIGA/CGA/127/13/E.
  • NFPA 59A.

Cryospain: your expert in developing cryogenic tanks and containers

At Cryospain, we present a decades-long commitment to develop the most innovative and tailored solutions in cryogenic engineering.

As such, we offer two lines of cryogenic containers: 

  • Our vacuum-insulated pressurized cryogenic storage tanks, as both top-of-the-line single or double containment systems. Intended for cryogenic liquefied gasses such as LNG, LH2, LIN, LAR, LOX, or LHe from volumes starting at 300 m3 and up to 1500 tons, we provide custom solutions according to each project’s needs including tailored dimensions, materials and insulation systems.
  • Flat bottom cryogenic tanks, providing design, manufacturing, assembly and commissioning operations, all adapted to the needs of our clients.

If you are looking for cryogenic containers, at Cryospain we can help you. Download our reference documents or get in touch with us to see how we can help you find the most suitable solution for your project.

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