Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Pressure

Whenever we start a compressed-air energy survey there are always two key topics plant personnel feel are paramount – leaks and reducing pressure. In this installment of our series on missed demand-side opportunities we’ll address the importance of compressed air system pressure.
A pharmaceutical plant, has had a compressed air assessment performed on two plant systems.  The studies uncovered poor compressed air production efficiency, high air dryer loss, and problems with high flow compressed air uses negatively affecting plant pressure. The plant implemented energy efficiency measures, on the two compressed air systems, saving 46 and 64 percent in energy costs respectively.
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.
When Compressed Air Consultants was starting, in 2003, we were approached by a company experiencing significant problems with their compressed air system.  They had compressed air pressure problems causing production interruptions.  They had moisture issues causing all kinds of havoc throughout the facility and appeared to be using far too many air compressors for what they wanted to accomplish. 
Pressure regulators are everywhere compressed air is used. These simple devices, essential for safe and steady equipment operation, can be a big waster of compressed air. This article shows how with proper regulator selection, installation and setting management you can save compressed air and lower system pressures. This article looks at regulators on production equipment not central regulators or Process Flow Controllers.
A large fabric mill has implemented an energy management system based on the ISO 50001 standard to track their compressed air system efficiency.  As a result of information gained from this system, and measures learned in some recent compressed air training, the company has reduced their compressed air system costs while at the same time achieving increased fabric production output. The savings were gained by not only optimizing the supply side of the system, but by also addressing the end uses.
A Canadian chemical plant installed a large heated blower-purge style compressed air dryer, years ago, to condition the instrument air system against freezing temperatures.  The dryer selected was oversized for the connected air compressors and had unused on-board energy savings features.  A compressed air assessment revealed the site air compressors and compressed air dryers were running inefficiently and causing in-plant pressure problems.  Repairs to a compressed air dryer and the replacement of aging air compressors and dryers has reduced compressed air energy costs by 31 percent.
Technological trends in plastics manufacturing are driving the costs of production down. In industrial PET blow molding specifically, two innovative techniques have had major impacts over the last 15 years: “light weighting” the plastic bottles, and recirculating high-pressure compressed air. Both have helped to improve the energy efficiency of PET blow molding by reducing compressed air requirements dramatically.
PET Power Containers, a Canadian manufacturer of PET plastic containers, had plans for expanding its operations with the addition of more blow-molding equipment. Before the expansion could happen, however, the company needed to assess its compressed air system. Based in Vaughan, Ontario, PET Power provides a dizzying array of differently shaped and sized plastic bottles. Their operations run 24/7, and compressed air plays a key role in their primary manufacturing applications, including PET blow molding, PET preforming, and labeling bottles.
As a reader of this journal, you are well aware that large compressed air systems often have significant wasted air — often from leaks — that represent tens of thousands of dollars of waste per year. However, it is our experience that the so-called “low-cost” measures identified often go un-repaired, while other more costly capital projects get funded. Why? With an ROI of a half year or less, they seem like IQ tests to many compressed air auditors.
After more than 25 years in the compressed air industry, it still amazes me that many plant personnel and even those who sell compressed air products for a living don’t fully understand the relationship between flow, or volume (cfm), and pressure (psig). Walk into many body shops or small manufacturing plants, and you will find the compressor operating at an elevated pressure to satisfy the “demand.” If a plant has low air pressure on the production floor, what is the first thing that the maintenance professional does? You guessed it: He or she “jacks” up the pressure on the compressor, not realizing that he or she made the problem worse.