Industrial Utility 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.
Machine builders aiming to improve the energy efficiency of their machines tend to focus on using energy media other than pneumatics (typically electro-mechanical or hydraulic) since pneumatics, as traditionally applied, is viewed by some as inefficient due to factors like leakage and over-pressurization (i.e.: supplying a higher pressure in an actuator to accomplish a task which is endemic in practice). But they shouldn't, with its low cost of ownership, pneumatics when properly used remains a viable and many times preferable energy source for a given application. When generating and using compressed air, it's true that there are many places in the system where energy can be lost, however targeted measures within a comprehensive energy saving concept can prevent these losses and significantly reduce energy consumption at the machine level.
The PET industry is in a state of flux right now. A number of new bottle blowing facilities are being brought on-line. They are in the “discovery” phase right now as they realize how challenging the required compressed air systems are to manage – from an energy efficiency standpoint. The average high-volume stretch blow molder (SBM) working with PET usually has 2,000 to 4,000 horsepower of installed air compressors with the related energy costs running between $1 to $4 million per year. This typically represents 35-40% of the facilities’ total energy bill.
Many passenger cars on roads in Germany contain efficiency concepts that make a considerable contribution to lowering emissions. Automotive manufacturers such as VW have gone even further than this, by applying efficiency strategies in their own value added chain. Because the benefits of pneumatics in automotive industry production processes have seen pneumatic actuation win over other drive technologies, efficient use of compressed air plays a key role in increasing energy efficiency.
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.
Kneeling modules are quickly becoming the centerpiece of accessible vehicle equipment. This trend began with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1991. Prior to the ADA, about 40% of all transportation vehicles were accessible to persons with disabilities.
Much attention and expense is often directed towards optimizing compressor control, clean-up equipment, system pressure / flow control and main system piping in an attempt to maintain adequate and stable pressure at the end use. Often forgotten are the components of the distribution system between the main system header and the end use.
This West Coast pharmaceutical facility has a very clean and organized compressed air system. All equipments is in good working order in the compressor room. The compressor room itself is very clean and well ventilated. The management requested a compressed air system audit for two reasons:
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.
When it comes to conserving energy in compressed air nothing is sexier than a big, old, oil-free 300 horsepower variable speed drive air compressor coupled with a heat of compression dryer tied to an energy management system with all the trimmings. If you’re like me, it’s hard not to let out a manly grunt after reading that sentence.