Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Technology

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

Knowing when to overhaul a unit is important, and there are certain signs indicating a unit needs attention. Performing routine fluid checks, taking oil samples and routinely checking for bearing vibration can unveil indicators suggesting an upcoming failure. Oil contamination with metal fragments usually indicates parts are wearing. It’s also important to take notice of airend temperature increases. If internal air compressor temperatures go up, it’s a good indicator the cooler may be failing.

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.

Blowers

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

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”.

Instrumentation

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.

Pneumatics

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.

Vacuum

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.
Compressed Air Best Practices® Magazine interviewed Frank Mueller (President) and Stephen Horne (Blower Product Manager) from Kaeser Compressors. Kaeser Compressors continues to grow both in the U.S. and internationally. We currently employ approximately 4800 people globally. In order to support the demand and maintain our superior quality and quality service levels, we continue to invest in people, facilities and technology.
Productivity is more reliable when equipment can be monitored to detect incipient failures and take corrective action before the plant goes down. But many devices, such as analog control valves, pneumatic valve terminals and field sensors, often do not offer diagnostic feedback, or it is not being used. This white paper describes how this problem is being addressed, and includes an example of pneumatic valve terminals that can monitor, among other things, open load or coil currents at the specific valve and pressure inside the valve terminal.
Compressed Air Best Practices® Magazine interviewed Pascal van Putten (CEO) of  VPInstruments.  -- We founded VP Instruments, in 1999, with the mission being to apply our experience with flow sensor technology to compressed air and gas flow applications in laboratories with a “one size fits all applications” concept. We did some trade shows and sold one unit during the first year – a tough start. So we hired a consultant who helped us re-package the technology completely. This led us to launch the VPFlowMate, in 2002, in a small and easy to use package. The company has taken off since then.
As the population continues to grow in the United States, industrial water use will need to continue to fall to help offset the increases in public-supply water use. Water-cooled compressed air systems provide an opportunity for sustainability managers to reduce associated cooling water consumption and costs. If switching to air-cooled air compressors is not possible, understanding the costs and the alternative types of liquid cooling systems is important.
Compressed Air Best Practices® Magazine interviewed Dr. Jay Varadaraj, (Managing Director) of ELGi Equipments Ltd. ELGi today is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of air compressors. Like most companies, however, it started with one ambitious person. My grandfather, Lakshminaickenpalayam Govindaswamy (this where the “L” and “G” in ELGi come from) was a bus driver for the British in 1918. He purchased one bus and proceeded to build a fleet peaking at 300 buses. He believed he was in the transportation business so he entered the airline business ultimately withdrawing however when this industry was nationalized.  
The compressed air system in most industrial and commercial facilities is vital to production machinery and processes. When it goes down so does the plant output. This important utility is often one of the most costly energy consumers in a facility. Yet most compressed air system operators have little knowledge of how their compressed air system is performing and, if problems have happened, do not have an accurate record of what went wrong.
Boeing Canada Winnipeg (BCW) has been recognized with the best improvement project of 2013 within the Boeing enterprise worldwide. A cross-functional project team including BCW staff, Manitoba Hydro technical support, and design engineers from Alliance Engineering Services, Inc. used innovative high-pressure storage to reduce the required size of their air compressors and save substantial utility energy and demand charges.
Most of us understand each individual has a unique DNA combination. Compressed air is very similar, each compressed air system should be uniquely designed so the system performs in harmony. Properly managing the compressed air system requires an investigative audit to understand the nuances of the system and identify the most effective solution(s) for efficiency. Not investigating the system, before selecting improvements, would be like consenting to surgery without having an exam. Yet, this frequently occurs in businesses operating compressed air systems.
This is a food processing plant where processes and standards are controlled by FDA to AIB standards. Annual plant electric costs for compressed air production, as operating today, are $116,765 per year. If the electric costs of $3,323 associated with operating ancillary equipment such as dryers are included, the total electric costs for operating the air system are $120,088 per year. These estimates are based upon a blended electric rate of $0.085/kWh.
Northwest Pump & Equipment was founded in 1959 - opening three branches on the same day in Portland, Seattle and Spokane. The business focus was to distribute petroleum equipment for the oil and gas market – primarily to service stations and oil jobbers. In-ground fuel tanks, hoists, lubrication equipment, lighting, farm pumps, air compressors and other gas pumping equipment were our primary product lines back when there were “Full-Service Gas Stations”. Over the years, this successful business model was expanded so the Company did business in California, Hawaii, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana.