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Bottled Gas Suppliers

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Andrew Johnston10/01/2020 14:30:39
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5182 forum posts
599 photos

Currently I have an account with Air Liquide for oxygen and acetylene gas bottles. I haven't made much use of the account until last summer. When I looked the Air Liquide agent I used near Cambridge had been taken over. I looked elsewhere, but other agents were a 100+ mile round trip. More in hope than expectation I called the Cambridge company. Turns out they're owned by Air Liquide and are still agents for bottled gas. Absolutely nothing on the website to indicate that. So I drove over with the empty bottles, confirmed my account was still active and came away with a refill bottles of oxygen and acetylene in my car.

Fast forward to now when I need refills. Called the company on Monday. They confirmed my account was active (agreement ends November 2020) and they had bottles in stock. Then said they couldn't load bottles into my car. Claimed it was the law, but when pushed said it was company policy. They wouldn't give me a delivery price. Then said my account should have been transferred and they'd let the local sales rep know and he would contact me ASAP. Of course he never called. So on Tuesday I called Air Liquide. They contacted the agent and then called me back and said the delivery would be £51.66p! They also confirmed that due to EU ADR regulations gas bottles had to be carried on an open back vehicle.

I swallowed hard and ordered two refills on Wednesday morning. The guy was very rude and said delivery would be in the next two days, maybe. So far nowt, so it looks like he's just another lying barsteward! The whole week wasted.

In the longer term it seems I have three options:

1. Don't bother with oxy-acetylene

2, Air Liquide do a system called Albee which is deemed safer as the regulator is built into the bottle - I have one of these containing argon for the TIG welder. But the local depot are the same bunch of clowns I'm already dealing with.

3. Go for one of the rent free suppliers. Hobbyweld have an agent near me and offer oxygen and acetylene in three sizes of bottle.

Now that's the rant over my question is: does anyone have experience of Hobbyweld?

As a footnote Air Liquide are wrong about the ADR regulations. There is an explicit exception on the HSE website for private users carrying small amounts. Since I'm using the set for hot forming and welding parts for my treaction engines I'm clearly in that category.

Andrew

Dave Wootton10/01/2020 14:47:35
36 forum posts
2 photos

Hi Andrew

I use Hobbyweld for oxygen and acetylene, have had no problems at all and have been using them for a couple of years, I also use Adams gas for pure argon, but I think Adams are more restricted to the south east.

Neither stockist seem interested in how the cylinders are transported, I always ring a few days before collection, if the stockist has none in stock, they can get it in a couple of days, been very happy so far.

I changed a while ago whilst with BOC, when I realised how much I was spending a year on bottle rental for something that I only use once in a while. I also got caught up in the transport fiasco when I tried to collect from a depot.

As an aside I now use oxy- propane for many heating jobs a lot more to save on acetylene, bit of a cheapskate really!

Dave

Clive Foster10/01/2020 15:19:46
2029 forum posts
73 photos

As ever its the quality of the folk supplying the stuff rather than the stuff that matters. First find good helpful suppliers, then decide what to get.

I'm sure you have seen it but AirLiquide guidance here **LINK** . That said I'd want to see something strapped to the car or van to keep the bottles upright. Most especially acetylene.

I flogged through the suppliers & prices thing about 9 months back. Primarily MiG gas for me and a mate but I did look at the other types too just in case I went O-A. Bottom line seemed to be that rented works out cheaper at around 2 bottles or more a year, rent free below 1 in 2 years. In between its a wash, need to figure out best for your use.

Unless you have a grandfathered deal like my mate has with BoC which is well cheap. Way he tells the story Y (I think) size bottles got unpopular and BoC had a lot cluttering up the depots so they rented them out cheaply to low users figuring that it was better to get some money from other folk storing them than having to pay for depot storage! By my maths he gets the bottles just about free taking into account delivery.

When doing comparisons check out the filled capacity of the bottles. Some brands are at lower pressures. HobbyWeld seem to be at the lower end.

The MiG I lucked into on E-Bay came with an Albee cylinder and there is a supplier 6 miles down the road so I'm happy although the gas comes out a bit more expensive than HobbyWeld (12 miles down the road). Rent free Albee cylinders are more expensive than plain ones suppliers. For MiG difference is roughly the price of a decent regulator so, as I didn't have a regulator it mattered not. The Albee regulator does have a flow set valve built in which is nice and saves on getting a flow meter.

Frankly if your AirLiquide branch always has Albee cylinders in stock and will efficiently do a rent-free changeover in person I'd be inclined to stay with them. I can put up with rude/sarcastic if visiting once a year or so. Just so long as the job gets done like now. Messing with an account tho' it's up against the wall, hand round their throat with feet dangling time!

Clive

Oldiron10/01/2020 15:45:52
379 forum posts
22 photos

I have used SGS Gases since I retired and stopped paying BOC for rental bottles. They have many distributors throughout the country. Their agents include Motor Parts Direct, All vehicle Parts and many others. I have collected in my 4x4 many times. No problems with how or which way bottles were collected/loaded. Always had excellent service from them. I paid a one off fee for the bottles and now just pay the cost of gas on exchange. They have several agents around Cambridgeshire.

regards

Baz10/01/2020 16:00:29
328 forum posts

Back in the 70s I had an oxygen bottle rented from BOC. Got rid of it due to cost and made do with Sievert propane torch. Recently decided to resurrect the oxy propane and discovered Hobbyweld, nearest supplier about twenty mile round trip, got myself a small oxygen bottle and am delighted with it, would highly recommend Hobbyweld.

KWIL10/01/2020 16:08:13
3164 forum posts
62 photos

As I have always understood it, if an acetylene bottle has been lying down in transport it MUST be stood upright for a minimum of 4 hours to allow mixture to stablise. Works for me.

Brian Wood10/01/2020 17:37:10
2072 forum posts
37 photos

KWIL,

Your information is correct, acetylene is dissolved in acetone dispersed within a porous mass inside the bottle and any bottles transported on their sides need to acclimatize again before use. I usually let mine stand overnight to do so.

Brian

Stueeee10/01/2020 18:58:16
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44 forum posts

Due to yet another hike in rental charges, I binned my BOC account for Oxygen and Acetylene earlier this year. I have an Albee cylinder for Acetylene. The Albee cylinders are available from a number of distributors, so if the one you're currently dealing with is acting like an idiot, you should be able to find another who isn't too far away.

The Albee Oxygen cylinders have a built in single stage reg. but as I can get Oxygen from any number of suppliers I went for a cylinder from Adams Gas which allows me to continue to use use my own 2 stage regulator. The Acetylene cylinders from both Hobby weld and Albee have a built in single stage regulator, which I'm really not keen on, but it's Hobson's choice on this.

As the cylinders are different diameters to BOC's I made this welding cart for the new "rent free" setup.

The guage mounted on the enconomiser is so that I can get a true line pressure reading from the Albee single stage regulator; this only has a contents guage and there is a calibrated knob which gives a vague idea of the line pressure.

Mike London11/01/2020 00:51:09
5 forum posts

I have used Hobbyweld for several years now and haven't had any problems. There seems to be a good spread of agents around the country.
The important thing is to keep your initial deposit receipt even if it is many years old to be able get the bottle deposit back. But I have noticed of late they seem to be dramatically increasing gas prices and have recently introduced " an administration charge" of £10 when you want your bottle deposit back, which I think is a bit of a con.
So I have started to move over to SGS gases who are quite considerably cheaper on bottle deposits and gas and also appear to have a good spread of agents around the country.
Although I don't use acetylene, no one has ever questioned me about transport. Once they have received the money it is up to you to get the cylinder out of the shop and loaded, they have no idea or interest in what vehicle or position the cylinder will be transported.

Baz11/01/2020 09:51:15
328 forum posts

Mile London, thanks for the info on SGS gasses, I have just looked them up and they have an agent within half a mile of me, I could carry bottles there and back!

Mark Rand11/01/2020 11:21:33
856 forum posts

I will admit to moving over to Hobbyweld due to the costs of running a BOC argon bottle. Second the caution about clinging on to the original bottle receipt. I need to add a codicil to my will to tell the kids where they're stored. smiley

Edited By Mark Rand on 11/01/2020 11:21:53

Andrew Johnston12/01/2020 11:45:47
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5182 forum posts
599 photos

Wow, great response, far more replies than I was expecting, thanks one and all.

It looks like HobbyWeld are definitely worth investigating. As a plus their agent is SW of Cambridge and I'm west of Cambridge, so easier to get to. If nothing else it doesn't involve the A14 (massive multi-year roadworks) and the A10 (jammed solid most days). I'm doing quite a lot of heating for metal flanging at the moment. So I thought it might be worthwhile buying a proper heating nozzle rather than the cutting head I'm currently using. Looking to buy might be an excuse to visit the agent and assess their competence and demeanour.

DaveW is correct, Adams only serve the south east. I had a leaflet from them, but it was picked up at a traction engine meeting in Hampshire. They don't seem to do acetylene either.

SGS look interesting, although they don't seem to do acetylene either. Their nearest practical outlet is Royston. They've got a couple of places in Cambridge. But trust me, it'd be quicker to get to Royston!

Clive has raised some interesting points. I've got a while to run on my existing agreement so that gives me time to look around. Pricing is important, but not key. I'm always getting letters from Air Liquide increasing prices, and I don't suppose anyone else is going to be any different. I'm not averse to the Albee system, just the clowns who masquerade as the agents!

I've looked at propane and the other fuel gases that are less dangerous than acetylene; the issues are all to do with the triple bond according to my brother, who is an organic chemist. I think the alternatives would be fine for heating, not sure about cutting but for welding I get the impression that the suppliers are putting on a brave face to cover the fact that the flame simply isn't as hot as oxy-acetylene. I'd also have to buy new mixers and possibly nozzles if I changed. I've also read that the propane fuels use a lot more oxygen. Whereas at the moment, for heating and welding both bottles seem to empty at roughly the same time. Obviously cutting uses way more oxygen, but I don't do that very often.

Once again, thanks for all the helpful responses. I'll update the saga with Air Liquide next, in a separate post, in case I lose the typing so far.

Andrew

john fletcher 112/01/2020 12:00:32
572 forum posts

Adam gas is available up here in sunny Scarborough and in the York area as well. John

Andrew Johnston12/01/2020 12:13:30
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5182 forum posts
599 photos

Their website says the delivery area is Kent, East Sussex and some of south London. However, they do have stockists UK wide. Naturally Cambridge is in a stockist black hole. The nearest one is about 20 miles away.

Andrew

Andrew Johnston12/01/2020 15:39:52
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5182 forum posts
599 photos

The Air Liquide (AL) saga continues. Naturally no delivery by late Friday afternoon. So I called AL customer service and explained the situation to a very pleasant lady, who commiserated. She must have called the agent because she said delivery would be next Tuesday. I explained that while that is sort of ok for me any sort of commercial welding outfit would be mighty pissed. Also said that I was pissed because I didn't know when, which makes it impossible to plan activities. It's a real waste of time if you're expecting a delivery and have to wait in. Even nipping out for 10 minutes could be a disaster. My number one rule in these situations is to be polite, but be a polite PITA to the extent they realise you're not going to fobbed off. Then it's easier for them to sort the issue rather than woffle! The issues have been sent to the sales manager and, in theory, he's going to call me to discuss service and delivery pricing. I also said they were wrong on the ADR regulations as I was a private individual using gas for leisure activities. She said she'd contact the AL safety group for comment. I don't suppose I'll win the battle, but at least I've raised the issue.

After a bit of confusion over dates I confirmed that my rental agreement ends on the 31st of October 2020. So I've got time to look around elsewhere. I've got a lot sheetmetal flanging and welding to do on my engines so I aim to get on with it so I can refill bottles while I've still got a current agreement.

Roll on Tuesday!

Andrew

Paul Rhodes12/01/2020 16:38:21
4 forum posts

My experience of leaving the BOC fold is similar. In their defence, they did half the tariff on request some years ago. I now use HobbyWeld and the "keep receipt" advice is sound.

As Andrew said the ADR justification is wrong as "private use of vehicle " is a clear exemption. Similarly "occasionally engage"... .less than 2 journeys /month. It is this sort of inflexible mis-application of H and S that turns people off the core message of H and S.

Dave Wootton12/01/2020 18:35:35
36 forum posts
2 photos

Hi Andrew

You are quite right, oxy propane does not get as hot at oxy acetylene, I have found it ok for riveting, flanging and bending, but not gas welding, I have never tried cutting so can't comment.

I do a fair amount of bronze welding at times and have found that I cannot get a nice even fillet with oxy propane, might just be me, but the heat zone does not seem as controllable, perhaps diffused would be the correct term.

I was also disappointed to find my very useful pepperpot heating nozzle does not work with propane, never thought of the fact that more oxygen would be used with propane to get the heat output, now I have smaller bottles I seem to be more conscious of how much gas I'm using, the cheapskate in me again!

Air Liquide sound as awful to deal with as BOC used to be, good Luck.

Dave

peak412/01/2020 19:46:38
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1043 forum posts
98 photos

Depending of your application, you could try the glass bead artists method of heating stuff.
I've never tried oxy-acetylene welding, and for the amount I'd do, cant's justify renting/buying bottles.

I do occasionally want to heat things up a bit more locally than with a normal larger propane torch.

To that end, as I'd already got torches, flash arrestors etc, I picked up a second hand medical oxygen concentrator
OK it doesn't supply 100% pure oxygen, but works at over 90% @ 4 litres flow, and seems to work OK for me.

Mine came off Gumtree, but Tufnell Glass are one supplier; I've never used them myself.

Bill

Edited By peak4 on 12/01/2020 19:47:05

Andy Fryer12/01/2020 20:45:22
2 forum posts

Hello all, this is my first post / comment to this forum. Although I have little experience of O-A welding etc, Brown & Mason, demolition contractors are currently "dismantling" the power station I used work at using oxy-propane for cutting all metals including steel (up to 50mm thick), cast iron, cmv alloy steels and the turbine shafts which are approx 500mm dia shafts. They can get plenty of heat from oxy-propane for all the cutting, welding and heating (bending 50mm blast plates around the columns) and is safer with respect to cylinder fires and how to deal with them. The gasses are supplied in standard cylinders although come in packs due to the quantity of gas being used. Speaking to the guys doing the cutting they say it is important to use the current nozzles and torches designed for oxy-propane for efficient work.

Regards, Andy.

Bazyle12/01/2020 20:50:07
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4985 forum posts
198 photos

The SGS site doesn't give prices "contact agent" minefield, so some prices from users would be interesting. There is an agent within 3 miles of me though. They sell propylene - is that hotter than propane? might help Dave above.

Hobbyweld website won't work with my browser or something. However they are all over ebay and I notice they mention 137bar while SGS mention 200bar so worth checking that aspect wrt actual volume of gas.

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