Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Compressor Controls

When a system has the right combination of VFD and base-load air compressors, how do you coordinate their control? What tells the air compressors to run and load, to have just enough (or no) base-load air compressors and a VFD running, all the time air is needed? Appropriate master controls are needed. These controls are often called “sequencers” or “master control systems”.
While control storage was originally an integral component of a reciprocating air compressor installation, this article will only briefly explore that application. The content of this article will focus instead on rotary screw installations since the rotary screw air compressor has essentially replaced the reciprocating as the compressor of choice in industrial applications. It should also be noted that in compressed air systems where reciprocating and rotary screw air compressors are operating together, control storage should always be utilized.
The objective of a compressed air management system is to improve the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of “Energy Intensity” as it relates to compressed air. This translates into improving the ratio between the volume of product shipped and the net electricity (kWh) consumed by the compressed air system. How many thousand bottles, per compressed air kWh consumed, were shipped this month?
Pneumatic air cylinders play a major role in allowing a modern sawmill to produce at the high-speed production rates required. Stable air pressure is critical to allow the air cylinders to respond in a timely manner and avoid any production delays.
“First there are the old conventions. The majority of compressor houses still employ fixed speed compressors and a cascaded pressure switch control system. This arrangement will be familiar to many, but it is outdated and inefficient, and needs to be changed. There is a comfort factor with familiar technology, which is exacerbated by constant time pressure due to other day-today responsibilities and a lack of information and good advice on what can be achieved.”  
A Tier 1 automotive plant was spending $364,259 annually on electricity to operate their compressed air system. This figure was expected to increase as electric rates were forecasted to rise from their current average of 7.16 cents per kWh. Our firm, Air Power USA, conducted a full supply and demand-side compressed air system assessment. The set of projects recommended by the assessment, would reduce these energy costs by $218,670 or 60%.
“Compressed air systems with multiple compressors operating to supply demand requirements present unique challenges in compressed air system control schemes.”
The $mart Sequencer® is an air compressor control system designed to reduce a plant’s energy costs by continuously monitoring system demand and automatically selecting the most energy efficient combination of available air compressors.
Compressed air system controls match the compressed air supply with system demand and are one of the most important determinants of overall system energy efficiency. This article discusses both individual compressor control and overall system control of plants with multiple compressors. Proper control is essential to efficient system operation and high performance.  
The goals of this article are to show why sequencers often have problems, and to demonstrate how avoid problems by proper system integration and controls design.
When was the last time you visited your compressor room? A week ago? Several weeks ago? If you are like many, you went in for the last scheduled maintenance interval and have rarely been back since. Air compressors, dryers and other air system components have become more reliable and self sustaining from a maintenance standpoint with each generation, requiring less and less human intervention.