CaO + 3C→CaC2 + CO
Calcium carbide synthesis requires an extremely high temperature, ~2000 °C, which is not practically achievable by traditional combustion, so the reaction is performed in an electric arc furnace with graphite electrodes. The carbide product produced generally contains around 80% calcium carbide by weight. The carbide is crushed to produce small lumps that can range a few mm up to 50mm. The impurities are concentrated in the finer fractions.
The CaC2 content of the product is assayed by measuring the amount of acetylene produced on hydrolysis. As an example the British and German standards for the content of the coarser fractions are 295 L/kg and 300 L/kg respectively. Impurities present in the carbide include phosphide, which produces phosphine when hydrolysed.