CHAPTER 10 — Nitrogen-Oxygen Diving Operations 10-1
Nitrogen-oxygen (NITROX) diving is a unique type of diving using nitrogen-
oxygen breathing gas mixtures ranging from 75 percent nitrogen/25 percent
oxygen to 60 percent nitrogen/40 percent oxygen. Using NITROX significantly
increases the amount of time a diver can spend at depth without decompressing. It
also decreases the required decompression time compared to a similar dive made
to the same depth using air. NITROX may be used in all diving operations suitable
for air, but its use is limited to a normal depth of 140 fsw.
NITROX breathing gas mixtures are normally used for shallow dives. The most
benefit is gained when NITROX is used shallower than 50 fsw, but it can be
advantageous when used to a depth of 140 fsw.
Advantages and Disadvantages of NITROX Diving.
The advantages of using
NITROX rather than air for diving include:
Extended bottom times for no-decompression diving.
Reduced decompression time.
Reduced residual nitrogen in the body after a dive.
Reduced possibility of decompression sickness.
Reduced Nitrogen Narcosis
The disadvantages of using NITROX include:
Increased risk of CNS oxygen toxicity.
Producing NITROX mixtures requires special equipment.
NITROX equipment requires special cleaning techniques.
Long-duration NITROX dives can result in pulmonary oxygen toxicity.
Working with NITROX systems requires special training.
NITROX is expensive to purchase.
EQUIVALENT AIR DEPTH
The partial pressure of nitrogen in a NITROX mixture is the key factor deter-
mining the diver’s decompression obligation. Oxygen plays no role. The
decompression obligation for a NITROX dive therefore can be determined using
the Standard Air Tables simply by selecting the depth on air that has the same
partial pressure of nitrogen as the NITROX mixture. This depth is called the
Equivalent Air Depth (EAD). For example, the nitrogen partial pressure in a 68%
nitrogen 32% oxygen mixture at 63 fsw is 2.0 ata. This is the same partial pressure
of nitrogen found in air at 50 fsw. 50 fsw is the Equivalent Air Depth.
10-2 U.S. Navy Diving Manual—Volume 2
Equivalent Air Depth Calculation.
The Equivalent Air Depth can be computed from the following formula:
EAD = equivalent depth on air (fsw)
D = diving depth on mixture (fsw)
% = oxygen concentration in breathing medium (percentage decimal)
For example, while breathing a mixture containing 40 percent oxygen (O
0.40) at 70 fsw (D = 70), the equivalent air depth would be:
Note that with NITROX, the Equivalent Air Depth is always shallower than
the diver’s acual depth. This is the reason that NITROX offers a decompression
advantage over air.
Although the use of NITROX can increase the diver’s bottom time and reduce the
risk of nitrogen narcosis, using a NITROX mixture raises the concern for oxygen
toxicity. For example, using air as the breathing medium, an oxygen partial pres-
) of 1.6 ata is reached at a depth of 218 fsw. In contrast, when using the
NITROX mixture containing 60 percent nitrogen and 40 percent oxygen, a ppO
of 1.6 ata is reached at 99 fsw. Therefore, oxygen toxicity must be considered
when diving a NITROX mixture and is a limiting factor when considering depth
and duration of a NITROX dive.
Generally speaking, there are two types of oxygen toxicity—central nervous
system (CNS) oxygen and pulmonary oxygen toxicity. CNS oxygen toxicity is
usually not encountered unless the partial pressure of oxygen approaches or
exceeds 1.6 ata, but it can result in serious symptoms (see paragraph 3-10.2.2),
including potentially life-threatening convulsions. Pulmonary oxygen toxicity
may result from conducting long-duration dives at oxygen partial pressures in
excess of 1.0 ata. For example, a dive longer than 240 minutes at 1.3 ata or a dive
CHAPTER 10 — Nitrogen-Oxygen Diving Operations 10-3
longer than 320 minutes at 1.1 ata may place the diver at risk if the exposure is on
a daily basis. Pulmonary oxygen toxicity under these conditions can result in
decrements of pulmonary function, but is not life threatening.
The NITROX Equivalent Air Depth (EAD) Decompression Selection Table (Table
10-1) was developed considering both CNS and pulmonary oxygen toxicity.
Normal working dives that exceed a ppO
of 1.4 ata are not permitted, principally
to avoid the risk of CNS oxygen toxicity. Dives with a ppO
less than 1.4 ata,
however, can be conducted using the full range of bottom times allowed by the air
tables without concern for CNS or pulmonary oxygen toxicity.
Supervisors must keep in mind that pulmonary oxygen toxicity may become an
issue with frequent, repetitive diving. The effects of pulmonary oxygen toxicity
can be cumulative and can reduce the underwater work performance of susceptible
individuals after a long series of repetitive daily exposures. Fatigue, headache, flu-
like symptoms, and numbness of the fingers and toes may also be experienced
with repetitive exposures. Table 10-1 takes these repetitive exposures into account,
and therefore problems with oxygen toxicity should not be encountered with its
use. If symptoms are experienced, the diver should stop diving NITROX until they
Selecting the Proper NITROX Mixture.
Considerable caution must be used when
selecting the proper NITROX mixture for a dive. The maximum depth of the dive
must be known as well as the planned bottom time. Once the maximum depth is
known, the various NITROX mixtures can be evaluated to determine which one
will provide the least amount of decompression while also allowing for a
maximum bottom time. If a diver’s depth exceeds that allowed for a certain
NITROX mixture, the diver is at great risk of life-threatening oxygen toxicity.
NITROX DIVING PROCEDURES
NITROX Diving Using Equivalent Air Depths.
NITROX diving is based upon the
current U.S. Navy Air Decompression Tables. The actual schedule used is
adjusted for the oxygen percentage in the breathing gas. To use the EAD Decom-
pression Selection Table (Table 10-1), find the actual oxygen percentage of the
breathing gas in the heading and the diver’s actual depth in the left column to
determine the appropriate schedule to be used from the U.S. Navy Air Decompres-
sion Tables. The EAD decompression schedule is where the column and row
intersect. Dives using NITROX may be used with any schedule from the U.S.
Navy Air Decompression Tables (No-Decompression Limits for Air, Standard Air
Decompression, Surface Decompression using Air or Surface Decompression
Using Oxygen). When using Table 10-1, round all gas mixtures using the standard
rounding rule where gas mixes at or above 0.5% round up to the next whole
percent and mixes of 0.1% to 0.4% round down to the next whole percent. Once an
EAD is determined and a Navy air table is selected, follow the rules of the Navy
air table using the EAD for the remainder of the dive.
10-4 U.S. Navy Diving Manual—Volume 2
For Scuba operations, analyze the nitrox mix in each bottle to
be used prior to every dive.
Table 10-1. Equivalent Air Depth Table.
20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 15 15 15 15 15 10 10 10 10
30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 25 25 25 20 20 20 20 20 20
40 40 40 40 40 40 40 40 35 30 30 30 30 30 30 25 25
50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 40 40 40 40 40 35 35 35 35
60 60 60 60 60 60 60 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 40 40
70 70 70 70 70 70 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 50 50 50 50
80 80 80 80 80 70 70 70 70 70 70 70 60 60 60 60 60
90 90 90 90 90 80 80 80 80 80 80 70 70 70
100 100 100 100 90 90 90 90 90 90 80
110 110 110 110 100 100 100 100 100
120 120 120 120 110 110 110
130 130 130 120 120
140 140 140
EAD = Equivalent Air Depth - For Decompression Table Selection Only Rounded to Next Greater Depth
= 1.4 ata Normal workin
= Depth exceeds the normal workin
limit, requires the Commandin
Officer’s authoration and surface-supplied
equipment. Repetitive dives are not authorized. Times listed in parentheses indicate maximum allowable exposure.
: Depths not listed are considered beyond the safe limits of NITROX diving
The EAD, 1.4 ata Normal Workin
Limit Line and Maximum Allowable Exposure Time for dives deeper than the Normal
Limit Line are calculated assumin
the diver rounds the oxy
e in the
as mixture usin
rule discussed in para
raph 10-4.1. The calculations also take into account the allowable ± 0.5 percent error in
CHAPTER 10 — Nitrogen-Oxygen Diving Operations 10-5
In the event there is a switch to air during the NITROX
dive, using the diver’s maximum depth and bottom time follow the U.S. Navy Air
Decompression Table for the actual depth of the dive.
In the event that the loss of gas required a direct ascent
to the surface, any decompression requirements must be addressed using the stan-
dard protocols for “omitted decompression.” For omitted decompression dives
that exceed the maximum depth listed on Table 10-1, the diving supervisor must
rapidly calculate the diver’s EAD and follow the omitted decompression proce-
dures based on the diver’s EAD, not his or her actual depth. If time will not permit
this, the diving supervisor can elect to use the diver’s actual depth and follow the
omitted decompression procedures.
Dives Exceeding the Normal Working Limit.
The EAD Table has been developed
to restrict dives with a ppO
greater than 1.4 ata and limits dive duration based on
CNS oxygen toxicity. Dives exceeding the normal working limits of Table 10-1
require the Commanding Officer’s authorization and are restricted to surface-
supplied diving equipment only. All Equivalent Air Depths provided below the
normal working limit line have the maximum allowable exposure time listed
alongside. This is the maximum time a diver can safely spend at that depth and
avoid CNS oxygen toxicity. Repetitive dives are not authorized when exceeding
the normal working limits of Table 10-1.
NITROX REPETITIVE DIVING
Repetitive diving is possible when using NITROX or combinations of air and
NITROX. Once the EAD is determined for a specific dive, the Standard Navy Air
Tables are used throughout the dive using the EAD from Table 10-1.
The Residual Nitrogen Timetable for Repetitive Air Dives will be used when
applying the EAD for NITROX dives. Determine the Repetitive Group Designator
for the dive just completed using either Table 9-7, Unlimited/No-Decompression
Limits and Repetitive Group Designation Table for Unlimited/No-Decompression
Air Dives or Table 9-7, U.S. Navy Standard Air Decompression Table.
Enter Table 9-7, Residual Nitrogen Timetable for Repetitive Air Dives, using the
repetitive group designator. If the repetitive dive is an air dive, use Table 9-7 as is.
If the repetitive dive is a NITROX dive, determine the EAD of the repetitive dive
from Table 10-1 and use that depth as the repetitive dive depth.
NITROX DIVE CHARTING
The NITROX Diving Chart (Figure 10-1) should be used for NITROX diving and
filled out as described in Chapter 4. The NITROX chart has additional blocks for
the EAD and the percentage of gas in the NITROX mix.
10-6 U.S. Navy Diving Manual—Volume 2
NITROX Diving Chart.
CHAPTER 10 — Nitrogen-Oxygen Diving Operations 10-7
FLEET TRAINING FOR NITROX
A Master Diver shall conduct training for NITROX diving prior to conducting
NITROX diving operations. Actual NITROX dives are not required for this
training. The following are the minimum training topics to be covered:
Pulmonary and CNS oxygen toxicity associated with NITROX diving.
EAD tables and their association with the Navy air tables.
Safe handling of NITROX mixtures.
NITROX Charging and Mixing Technicians must be trained on the following
Oxygen handling safety.
Oxygen analysis equipment.
NITROX mixing techniques.
NITROX cleaning requirements (MILSTD 1330 Series).
NITROX DIVING EQUIPMENT
NITROX diving can be performed using a variety of equipment that can be broken
down into two general categories: surface-supplied or closed- and open-circuit
scuba. Closed-circuit scuba apparatus is discussed in Chapter 17.
Open-Circuit Scuba Systems.
Open-circuit scuba systems for NITROX diving
are identical to air scuba systems with one exception: the scuba bottles are filled
with NITROX (nitrogen-oxygen) rather than air. There are specific regulators
authorized for NITROX diving, which are identified on the ANU list. These regu-
lators have been tested to confirm their compatibility with the higher oxygen
percentages encountered with NITROX diving.
Scuba regulators designated for NITROX use should be cleaned to
the standards of MILSTD 1330. Once designated for NITROX use and cleaned,
the regulators should be maintained to the level of cleanliness outlined in MIL-
10-8 U.S. Navy Diving Manual—Volume 2
Scuba bottles designated for
use with NITROX should be oxygen
cleaned and maintained to that level.
The bottles should have a NITROX la-
bel in large yellow letters on a green
background. Once a bottle is cleaned
and designated for NITROX diving, it
should not be used for any other type of
diving (Figure 10-2).
All high-pressure flasks,
scuba cylinders, and all high-pressure
NITROX charging equipment that
comes in contact with 100 percent oxy-
gen during NITROX diving, mixing, or
charging evolutions much be cleaned
and maintained for NITROX service in
accordance with the current MILSTD
Surface-Supplied NITROX Diving.
Surface-supplied NITROX diving systems
must be modified to make them compatible with the higher percentage of oxygen
found in NITROX mixtures. A request to convert the system to NITROX must be
forwarded to NAVSEA 00C for review and approval. The request must be accom-
panied by the proposed changes to the Pre-survey Outline Booklet (PSOB)
permitting system use with NITROX. Once the system is designated for NITROX,
it shall be labeled NITROX with large yellow letters on a green background.
MILSTD 1330.D outlines the cleanliness requirements to which a surface-
supplied NITROX system must be maintained.
A NITROX system must not be used for air diving except in an emergency. Once
a designated NITROX system is used with air, it must be re-cleaned to MILSTD
1330 series prior to use with NITROX. An exception to this would be if the air
used in the banks is charged with an oil-free NITROX-approved compressor or if
the air meets the purity requirements of oil-free air.
The EGS used in surface-supplied NITROX diving shall be filled with the same
mixture that is being supplied to the diver ± 0.5 percent.
Cleanliness and the procedures used to obtain cleanliness are a concern with
NITROX systems. MILSTD 1330 is applicable to anything with an oxygen level
higher than 25 percent by volume. Therefore, MILSTD 1330 must be followed
when dealing with NITROX systems. Personnel involved in the maintenance and
repair of NITROX equipment shall complete an oxygen clean worker course, as
described in MILSTD 1330. Even with oxygen levels of 25 to 40 percent, there is
still a greater risk of fire than with compressed air. Materials that would not
NITROX Scuba Bottle
CHAPTER 10 — Nitrogen-Oxygen Diving Operations 10-9
normally burn in air may burn at these higher O
levels. Normally combustible
materials require less energy to ignite and will burn faster. The energy required for
ignition can come from different sources, for example adiabatic compression or
particle impact/spark. Another concern is that if improper cleaning agents or
processes are used, the agents themselves can become fire or toxic hazards. It is
therefore important to adhere to MILSTD 1330 to reduce the risk of damage or
loss of equipment and injury or death of personnel.
BREATHING GAS PURITY
It is essential that all gases used in producing a NITROX mixture meet the
breathing gas purity standards outlined in Volume 3. If air is to be used to produce
a mixture, it must be compressed using an oil-free NITROX-approved compressor
or meet the purity requirements of oil-free air. Prior to diving, all NITROX gases
shall be analyzed using an approved O
analyzer accurate to within ± 0.5 percent.
NITROX mixing can be accomplished by a variety of techniques to produce a
final predetermined nitrogen-oxygen mixture. The techniques for mixing
NITROX are listed as follows:
1. Continuous Flow Mixing
. There are two techniques for continuous flow
. A mix-maker uses a precalibrated mixing system that pro-
portions the amount of each gas in the mixture as it is delivered to a
common mixing chamber. A mix-maker performs a series of functions
that ensures accurate mixtures. The gases are regulated to the same
temperature and pressure before they are sent through precision meter-
ing valves. The valves are precalibrated to provide the desired mixing
pressure. The final mixture can be provided directly to the divers or be
compressed using an oil-free compressor into storage banks.
b. Oxygen Induction
. Oxygen induction uses a system where low pressure
oxygen is delivered to the intake header of an oil-free compressor,
where it is mixed with the air being drawn into the compressor. Oxygen
flow is adjusted and the compressor output is monitored for oxygen
content. When the desired NITROX mixture is attained the gas is
diverted to the storage banks for diver use while being continually
monitored for oxygen content (Figure 10-3).
2. Mixing by Partial Pressure
. Partial pressure mixing techniques are similar to
those used in helium-oxygen mixed gas diving and are discussed in Chapter
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a. Partial Pressure Mixing with Air
Oil-free air can be used as a Nitrogen
source for the partial pressure mixing of NITROX using the following
Prior to charging air into a NITROX bottle, the NITROX mixing
technician shall smell, taste, and feel the oil-free air coming from
the compressor for signs of oil, mist, or particulates, or for any
unusual smell. If any signs of compressor malfunction are found,
the system must not be used until a satisfactory air sample has been
Prior to charging with oxygen, to produce a NITROX mix, the
NITROX-charging technician shall charge the bottle to at least 100
psi with oil-free air. This will reduce the risk of adiabatic compres-
sion temperature increase. Once 100 psi of oil-free air has been
added to the charging vessel, the required amount of oxygen should
then be added. The remaining necessary amount of oil-free air can
then be safely charged into the bottle. The charging rate for
NITROX mixing shall not exceed 200 psi per minute.
contaminated or non-oil free air with 100% oxy
en can result in a
catastrophic fire and explosion.
CHAPTER 10 — Nitrogen-Oxygen Diving Operations 10-11
Compressed air for NITROX mixing shall meet the purity stan-
dards for “Oil-Free Air,” (Table 10-2). All compressors producing
air for NITROX mixing shall have a filtration system designed to
produce oil-free air that has been approved by NAVSEA 00C3. In
addition, all compressors producing oil-free air for NITROX
charging shall have an air sample taken within 90 days prior to use.
3. Mixing Using a Membrane System
. Membrane systems selectively separate
gas molecules of different sizes such as nitrogen or oxygen from the air. By
removing the nitrogen from the air in a NITROX membrane system the
oxygen percent is increased. The resulting mixture is NITROX. Air is fed into
an in-line filter canister system that removes hydrocarbons and other
contaminants. It is then passed into the membrane canister containing
thousands of hollow membrane fibers. Oxygen permeates across the
membrane at a controlled rate. The amount of nitrogen removed is determined
by a needle valve. Once the desired nitrogen-oxygen ratio is achieved, the gas
is diverted through a NITROX-approved compressor and sent to the storage
banks (see Figure 10-4 and Figure 10-5). Membrane systems can also
4. Mixing Using Molecular Sieves
. Molecular sieves are columns of solid, highly
selective chemical absorbent which perform a similar function to membrane
systems, and are used in a similar fashion. Molecular sieves have the added
advantage of absorbing CO
and moisture from the feed gas.
5. Purchasing Premixed NITROX
. Purchasing premixed NITROX is an
acceptable way of obtaining a NITROX mixture. When purchasing premixed
NITROX it is requisite that the gases used in the mixture meet the minimum
purity standards listed in volume 3.
Table 10-2. Oil-Free Air.
en (percent by volume) 20-22%
Carbon dioxide (by volume) 500 ppm (max)
Carbon monoxide (by volume) 2 ppm (max)
Total hydrocarbons [as Methane (CH
) by volume] 25 ppm (max)
Odor Not objectionable
Oil, mist, particulates 0.1 m
Separated Water None
Total Water 0.02 m
enated Compounds (by volume):
Solvents 0.2 ppm (max)
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NITROX MIXING, BLENDING, AND STORAGE SYSTEMS
Nitrox mixing, blending, and storage systems shall be designed for oxygen service
and constructed using oxygen-compatible material following accepted military
and commercial practices in accordance with either ASTM G-88, G-63, G-94, or
MILSTD 438 and 777. Commands should contact NAVSEA 00C for specific
guidance on developing NITROX mixing, blending, or storage systems.
Commands are not authorized to build or use a NITROX system without prior
NAVSEA 00C review and approval.
LP Air Supply NITROX Membrane Configuration.
CHAPTER 10 — Nitrogen-Oxygen Diving Operations 10-13
HP Air Supply NITROX Membrane Configuration.
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