Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Industries

A small Australian company, Basil V.R. Greatrex (BVRG), is shaking up the compressed air industry in Australia. While other companies focus on the sale of more and bigger compressed air production equipment, BVRG is helping customers reduce their compressed air system size and lower system flow by attacking waste, inappropriate use, and at the same time improving air quality.

Auto

This northeastern U.S. automotive manufacturing facility spends $269,046 annually on energy to operate their compressed air system. This figure will increase as electric rates are raised from their current average of .019 cents per kWh. The set of projects, in this system assessment, reduce these energy costs by $110,166 or forty percent. Reliability of compressed air quality, however, is the main concern in this plant and the primary focus of this system assessment.

Bulk

The plant air system consists of eight, single-stage, lubricated, Sullair rotary screw compressors. All units are in good working order.  Units 2, 3, 4 and 7 are water-cooled and units 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are air-cooled. The main plant air system has two primary compressed air dryers, a Thompson Gordon model TG 2000 refrigerated dryer, and a Sullair model SAR 1350 heatless desiccant dryer.  Both units are working according to their design. The TG 2000 uses approximately 11.2 kW and is a non-cycling type unit, and the SAR 1350 uses approximately 200 cfm of purge air to regenerate the wet tower. 

Food

A major poultry processor and packager spends an estimated $96,374 annually on energy to operate the compressed air system at its plant located in a southern U.S. state.  The current average electric rate, at this plant, is 8 cents per kWh.

Medical

In the U.S. as an example, the NFPA has taken the view that if your compressor draws in good clean ambient air, the air stays clean through the compressor, is then dried and filtered, when you deliver it to the patient it will be entirely satisfactory. After all, when you went into the hospital that’s what you were breathing and when you leave you will breathe it again!

Metals

FABTECH 2016, North America’s largest collaboration of technology, equipment and knowledge in the metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing industries, welcomed 1,500 exhibiting companies and a total of 31,110 attendees from over 120 countries last week to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Paper

Rockline Industries is one of the largest global producers of consumer products, specializing in wet wipes and coffee filters. The company contacted the Arkansas Industrial Energy Clearinghouse after identifying that the compressed air system in their Springdale, Arkansas facility was a potential source of significant savings. Experts from the Clearinghouse then began working with Rockline Industries, representatives of the electric utility, and a local compressed air vendor to perform a complete evaluation of the system.

Pharmaceutical

Compressed air is used in a number of processes in the food industry. It is used as an ingredient in whipped products such as ice cream, to slice or cut soft products and to open packagesbefore filling of product. Currently, food manufacturers are under pressure to validate the safety of all ingredients or processes for regulatory compliance, but unfortunately, there is currently no standard method to evaluate the microbial content of compressed air.

Plastics

A plastic product manufacturer spends an estimated $245,000 annually on electricity to operate the air compressors in a compressed air system at its plant located in a midwestern U.S. state.  The main manufacturing process is plastic extruding. The current average electric rate, at this plant, is 7 cents per kWh. The compressed air system operates 8,760 hours per year and the load profile of this system is relatively stable during all shifts.

Power

Nuclear power plants produce electricity for people, business and industry.  Electricity is produced in a similar fashion as fossil fuel (i.e., coal, oil, etc.) power plants, using steam to drive a turbines which spin an electrical generator, producing the electricity. 

Printing

The Trinity Mirror Group print works on Oldham is one of the UK’s largest newspaper printers. The nine presses in the facility produce around 1million papers every day, including the Independent, the Daily Mirror and a range of local, regional and sports titles. Printing on this scale does not come cheap in energy terms, however. The plant’s annual electricity bill is in the order of £1.5millon. With energy prices on the rise, and a strong desire to improve environmental performance and reduce its carbon footprint, the plant’s management has recently embarked on a project to cut energy use substantially.

Transit

In aerospace manufacturing, tiny details matter most. For instance, if proper torque is not applied to the screws and bolts fastening an aircraft fuselage, catastrophic failures can result. Compressed air is used to power the tools needed to apply that torque, making the compressed air system a critical part of the facility, though it largely stays behind the scene.

Wastewater

A replacement strategy for air compressors and blowers integrated into a system-level approach towards energy efficiency can deliver significant energy savings and optimize equipment performance. At the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, a blower replacement project yielded annual energy savings of more than 928,000 kWh and $98,000 in energy costs, while improving the reliability of its secondary treatment process. In addition, the agency qualified for important incentives from its electric utility — significantly improving the project economics and resulting in a 2.94-year payback.
According to the Compressed Air and Gas Institute (CAGI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the three major contaminants in compressed air are solid particles, water, and oil. CAGI promotes proper use of air compressors with various educational tools, while ISO 8573 is directed at the very specific areas of compressed air purity and test methods, which this article will address. Microorganisms are also considered a major contaminant by CAGI, but will not be discussed in this article.
Health and safety issues are a major concern in the food industry. Not only can contaminated food products endanger consumers, but they also can cause significant damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line. Contamination can come from many sources—industrial lubricants among them. With the abundance of lubricated machinery used in the food industry, lubricant dripping from a chain or escaping through a leak in a component can prove catastrophic. Even with the most prudent maintenance and operating procedures, along with a strict HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) plan, contamination may still occur.
In the food and beverage industry, the moment a product leaves the production line, the clock starts ticking down to when that product will no longer be viable for sale or consumption. To combat the clock, modified atmospheric packaging (MAP) techniques are used to help maintain product freshness and increase shelf life. Nitrogen is the most cost effective, efficient and widely used industry solution for a company’s packaging needs—whether it is for manufacturing cheese, coffee, dried snack foods, or fresh and ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. MAP also helps to decrease chances of contamination or spoiling, keeping products on the market for longer and ultimately increasing the reach of distribution.
Technological trends in plastics manufacturing are driving the costs of production down. In industrial PET blow molding specifically, two innovative techniques have had major impacts over the last 15 years: “light weighting” the plastic bottles, and recirculating high-pressure compressed air. Both have helped to improve the energy efficiency of PET blow molding by reducing compressed air requirements dramatically.
PET Power Containers, a Canadian manufacturer of PET plastic containers, had plans for expanding its operations with the addition of more blow-molding equipment. Before the expansion could happen, however, the company needed to assess its compressed air system. Based in Vaughan, Ontario, PET Power provides a dizzying array of differently shaped and sized plastic bottles. Their operations run 24/7, and compressed air plays a key role in their primary manufacturing applications, including PET blow molding, PET preforming, and labeling bottles.
Plastic injection molding is a common process in manufacturing, and it can be used to produce just about anything. To create a part, molten plastic is injected into a hollow mold, where it is formed and cooled before being ejected from the cavity. Plastic injection molders make a seemingly limitless range of products, from fishing tackle boxes and kayak paddles to tooth brushes and miniscule medical devices.
A Canadian fiberglass plant has completed a lengthy compressed air improvement journey and achieved significant efficiency gains by applying “the systems approach.” Along the way, the company ran across many frustrating problems, the solutions to which were only determined after the entire system was monitored holistically using data loggers. The overall compressed air audit led to a reduction in energy usage of 48 percent, yielding savings worth $17,500 per year. The project also qualified for a large utility incentive of $32,000 with a calculated payback of 4.4 years.
Sometime in mid-2015, I received a call from a project engineer at a major plastics firm. He had a troubling issue with one of his PET bottle plants. The bottom line was this: They could not run all five high production blow-molding machines at one time—even though they were able to do so 18 months previously.
Any modern food manufacturing facility employs compressed air extensively in the plant. As common as it is, the potential hazards associated with this powerful utility are not obvious and apparent. Food hygiene legislation to protect the consumer places the duty of care on the food manufacturer. For this reason, many companies often devise their own internal air quality standards based upon what they think or have been told are “best practices.” This is no wonder, as the published collections of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) that relate to compressed air are nebulous and difficult to wade through.
Air-operated double diaphragm (AODD) pumps are common to many manufacturing facilities. As estimated by veteran compressed air auditor Hank van Ormer of Air Power USA, approximately 85 to 90 percent of plants in the United States have AODD pumps. They are used for all kinds of liquid transfer applications, like those found in chemical manufacturing, wastewater removal, and pumping viscous food products.