Industrial Utility Efficiency    

End Uses

A chemical plant spends an estimated $587,000 annually on electrical energy to operate their compressed air system. In addition, the plant has an expenditure on rental air compressors of equal or greater size - but this will not be covered in this article. The plant was built in the 1940s and modernized in the 1970s. The plant generates its own power and serves many processes. The average cost per kWh is $0.0359.
Power Smart® efficiency measures for compressed air systems at Tolko’s paper mill and sawmill at The Pas are saving the company more than $125,000 a year.  
Air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pumps are known for their positive attributes of handling fluids that are heavily laden with solids, abrasive materials, shear sensitive liquids (paints and coatings) and the ability to pump soft solids without damaging the product. They are also popular because they are lightweight, portable and easy to use due to their pneumatic power.
This pharmaceutical plant spends $265,100 annually on energy to operate the compressed air system at their facility. This figure will increase as electric rates are projected to be raised from their current average of 7.7 cents /kWh. The set of projects identified in the compressed air system assessment could reduce these energy costs by $139,300 per year (52%).
“Sandblasting” is one of the oldest and most used methods of metal treatment. Various abrasive materials may be loaded manually or by a vacuum system pulling the “grit” from a storage tank. A control valve then operates with the compressed air (bypassing the vacuum pump), being forced into the tank pressurizing the receiver. When the high pressure compressed air goes out the discharge line, it pulls the appropriate amount of grit with it to effectively impinge against the targeted metal surface.
This textile plant uses compressed air in their knitting, sewing, and dye house operations and needed a system designed for the significant fluctuations in demand. Compressed air demand profiles were placed into four segments; 1st shift peak demand and minimum demand, and 2nd shift peak demand and minimum demand.
Assessing payback on engineered air nozzle and blower upgrades There are a variety of means factories can use to remove or “blowoff” moisture from a package. Open tubes or drilled pipe are often viewed as simple low-cost methods. However, there are considerable drawbacks to these approaches, most notably – increased operating expense. While they may be convenient and inexpensive in the short term, these approaches often cost 5-7 times more to operate than preferred alternatives.
Compressed air users looking for energy reduction often identify their air compressors as a prime area for savings potential. But …what about end uses? There are a large number of obvious measures that can be implemented, such as leakage reduction, reducing open blowing and eliminating inappropriate uses..however, there are other more technical opportunities available that involve properly specifying or redesigning existing pneumatic circuitry in compressed air operated machines and processes.
Most systems are sized on the supply side at many times more volume and significantly higher pressure than is actually necessary to support the real demand plus a fudge factor generally created out of fear. I am sure that had the OEM defined what is not only minimally necessary in terms of mass flow at density (pressure and temperature), but also with the intent of the highest possible efficiency, we would approach things very differently.
Recently, The Kroger Company’s Indianapolis bakery identified the use of compressed air in a blow-off and conveyor gap transfer as a major source of energy loss and cost waste. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “inappropriate use” of compressed air like blow-off produces high pressure atmosphere bleed leading to significant energy loss and unnecessary operational costs. Carrying a 10-15% efficiency return (according to the Department of Energy), compressed air applications can often be achieved more effectively, efficiently and less expensively with alternative solutions using a high flow rate and moderate pressure.
A comprehensive compressed air system analysis should include an examination of both air supply and usage and the interaction between the supply and demand. Auditors typically measure the output cfm of a compressed air system and the input kW, calculate energy consumption in kilowatt-hours, and determine the annual cost of operating the system. The auditor may also measure total air losses caused by leaks and locate those that are significant.