Industrial Utility Efficiency    


It is becoming a “best practice” to install a variable frequency drive (VFD) air compressor whenever one is replacing an old air compressor.  As a result, real systems have fixed-speed and VFD air compressors, mixed.  I have observed several VFD compressor sizing methods.  In my last article, I referred to a common method: size one VFD compressor for the whole system.  This can work.  However, if it doesn’t meet a higher peak demand, one or more of the old compressors will be started, and a mixed system results.   Another method is to replace a compressor with the same size, but with a VFD.  If the compressor that was replaced is large, a big VFD is installed.  If small, a small one.

Air Compressors

As an end user, have you ever heard the message to put in the biggest VFD air compressor, and the system will always be reliable and efficient.  Why do an audit?  Just add up the compressors on site and put one VFD for that size or larger.  Why have the complexity of multiple compressors, storage, sequencing, etc?  Even better, put in two of them, one for the whole system, and one for back-up.  If you could wave a wand, wouldn’t that be what every system should look like?  Perfect peace and efficiency, with 100% confidence of reliability.

Air Treatment

Compressed air is dried to prevent condensation and corrosion which can disrupt manufacturing processes and contaminate products. Water is the primary promotor of chemical reactions and physical erosion in compressed air systems. A myriad of desiccant dryer designs have been devised to provide “commercially dry” air, air having a dew point of -40°F or less, to prevent corrosion.  Desiccant dryers use solid adsorbents in granule form to reduce the moisture content of compressed air.


High speed bearing technology is applicable for aeration blowers operating at much higher speeds than the typical 60Hz, 3600RPM for cast multistage units. High Speed Turbo (HST) units are usually single stage (though some utilize multiple cores) and rotate from 15,000 to 50,000RPM. At such high speeds, standard roller bearings cannot offer the industry standard L10 bearing life. Two types of bearing technologies have come to dominate the wastewater treatment market for these types of machines: airfoil and magnetically levitated. Often the two technologies are compared as equals, however, in many significant ways they are not.

Compressor Controls

Quite often the typical variability in compressed air flow demand does not proportionately translate into power reductions at the air compressors. This can be a result of numerous problems with the compressed air supply system. It is important to understand the supply-side’s ability to respond to the demand-side of the compressed air system. If the air compressors, on the supply-side, are not able to translate flow reductions into energy savings, implementation of demand reduction projects should be re-evaluated.  


Compressed Air Best Practices® Magazine interviewed Mr. Warwick Rampley, the National Sales Manager for Sydney (Australia) based, Basil V.R. Greatrex Pty Ltd. It’s not every day one is asked to deliver a system able to provide both a reliable compressed air dew point of -80°C (-112°F) and high purity nitrogen.  We work with some excellent technology suppliers and have engineered a rather interesting system.  Although our firm was founded in 1919, this application is one of the most demanding we’ve encountered. Basil V.R. Greatrex is a unique company as we focus only on compressed air measurement, compressed air quality and compressed air efficiency.


The design of wastewater treatment plants is changing, and it has something to do with LEGO® bricks. More specifically, it has to do with how large and complex LEGO structures are built. If you follow the instructions carefully, you build module after module, eventually piecing them together to create a fully functional and cohesive unit.


It’s one thing to move materials during the production process, but when it’s a finished product on the packaging line, choosing the right material handling system is essential. Getting it wrong results in squandered production time when product loss occurs, and wasted raw materials.

Cooling Systems

As a result of compressed air awareness training and a focus on energy management, two facilities in different parts of the world have reduced their compressed air demand substantially by removing vortex style cabinet coolers from some of their electrical panels and reworking the cooling systems.  These facilities were previously unaware of the high cost of compressed air and how much could be saved if other methods of cooling were used. This article describes some of their efforts in demand reduction.
The 2017 AICD Conference and Exhibition was held May 21-23 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada.  The membership of the Association of Independent Distributors came together to share ideas and discuss business methods to help their businesses prosper.  “The AICD has grown by 15% with 9 new distributor members,” said AICD President Phil Kruger. “The event provides both members and vendors with excellent educational and networking opportunities designed to help grow our businesses.”
The 2017 Hannover Messe attracted 225,000 visitors with 75,000 coming from outside Germany. The over-arching theme of the event was the Industrial Internet of Things – or Industry 4.0, as it is known in Germany. Dr. Jochen Köckler, Member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe commented,“Over the past five days, Hannover has served as a global hub for all things related to Industrie 4.0. Every sector involved in the digitalization of industry was on hand to showcase its answers to the key question faced by industrial enterprises everywhere: How can I best get my company into shape for the digital future?
A complete compressed air system assessment should provide detailed information on both the supply and demand sides of the system. The supply-side refers to the equipment supplying compressed air – the air compressor, dryers, filters, piping and storage tanks.  The purpose of this article is to illustrate what information we believe a factory should receive from a supply-side system assessment and more importantly – what information a plant should always know about their compressed air system.
A newly constructed ethanol plant experienced control gap issues shortly after comissioning.  This article discusses the cause of the issue and how the problem was solved.
This article will talk about testing.  I will assume a “typical” system, a screw air compressor mix with regenerative dryers. Testing has to be done at several stages and locations, due to the cobbled-together nature of a compressed air system.
A pharmaceutical product manufacturer spends an estimated $137,443 annually on electricity to operate the oil-free air compressors in its compressed air system. The compressed air system operates well and is providing the level of purification required.  Our team visited the plant and identified a group of projects which could reduce compressed air demand and reduce energy costs by $42,248 – or 31% of current use.
A large pharmaceutical company needed huge flow rates of 30 psig air to aerate multiple fermentation processes which create food-grade materials.  Flow could vary from about 12,000 scfm to 35,000 scfm.  There were a variety of batch processes, mostly running independently.  An hour-by-hour schedule for anticipated air flow is developed every afternoon for the next day.  Based on that schedule, the boiler operators run the air compressors that can handle the load range for the whole day. In reality, the peak flow can be higher than anticipated.
The Lafarge Cement Distribution terminal located in Winnipeg, Canada has significantly reduced the site electrical demand and energy charges by changing the way they transport their cement.  Two new low-pressure rotary screw air compressors have replaced two large high-pressure air compressors that previously powered their dense phase transport system.  The resulting power reduction has saved the company 46 percent in transport operating costs.
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.
A centrifugal air compressor operates over a range of flows and discharge pressures. The operating performance curve is shaped by the selected individual internal components and affected by operating conditions such as inlet pressure, inlet temperature, and cooling water temperature. The process of dynamic compression, as applied in a centrifugal compressor operating stage, is velocity and kinetic energy converted to pressure and temperature as the flow is restricted. Another term for this process is mass flow – the power requirement to deliver the rated cfm of flow at the rated pressure (psig) is determined by the weight of the air.