Industrial Utility Efficiency    

System Assessment

Many are familiar with the advances with improved technology in the compressed air supply. Such advancements as, proactive central air compressor controls to maintain optimum operation of multiple compressors to support ever changing air demands; improved drive systems such as VSD’s; magnetic bearing drives (centrifugals); and more efficient and reliable equipment taking advantage of modern manufacturing capability. These new technologies are very important in generating relative high energy cost savings, and are well promoted by the OEM equipment manufacturers.

Compressor Controls

This article is going to identify two air compressor control situations that will preclude translating air use reduction in the production area into lower input energy into the air compressor.

Piping Storage

One of the most common problems in plants is low air pressure. One of the most common solutions is to purchase new air compressors. Often this advice leads to a poor return on investment with the company’s hard-earned money. Often the issues are related to demand, distribution, or both. Solving the wrong problem can be expensive from a capital and operating cost perspective. Determining root cause analysis may cost more up front, but will save tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars long term.

End Uses

In this series we covered some very common issues in the Compressed Air Generation or “Supply Side” with regard to misapplying some capacity controls and installing different types of air compressors with piping and/ or orientation. These can preclude any reduction in compressed air demand on the production side from effectively translating lower air usage into a commensurate level input energy.


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.

Air Treatment/N2

This plant has three production lines producing snack food. Depending on the time of year and production demand the plant can operate anywhere from no production lines to all three production lines. A thorough supply and demand-side system assessment was done at this plant. This article will focus on some recommended demand-side reduction projects including nitrogen generation, air vibrators, leaks and vacuum venturis.


Petro Chemical Energy, Inc. (PCE) specializes in energy loss surveys for the refining and chemical industries. We’ve been providing Compressed Air Leak Surveys, Nitrogen Leak Surveys, Steam Leak Surveys and Steam Trap Surveys – for over twentyfive (25) years. We operate totally independent of all equipment manufacturers to ensure our clients receive a complete and unbiased report of the leaks in their facility. PCE has conducted compressed air leak surveys for hundreds of customers at thousands of sites. Undetected, compressed air and gas leaks rob efficiency in manufacturing and processing industries. As a result, businesses lose millions of dollars annually in energy costs and lost production time.


A flour based frozen foods manufacturer orders a compressed air efficiency audit. The audit establishes the cost of compressed air at $0.27/1000 cubic feet. The study finds the 116 pulse jet dust collectors represent the greatest opportunity for compressed air demand reduction and energy cost savings. A dust collector optimization study/service is suggested and the customer agrees to proceed. In this facility, pulse jet dust collectors are used to filter dust from raw materials entering the plant, for conveying and mixing of ingredients, and for the final packaged finished products leaving the plant.  

Vacuum Blowers

Every municipality and utility is facing the reality of rising energy costs. In 2010, the Town of Billerica, MA, which is located 22 miles northwest of Boston with a population of just under 40,000 residents, engaged Process Energy Services and Woodard & Curran to conduct an energy evaluation of the Town’s Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) and pump station systems sponsored by National Grid. The objective of the evaluation was to provide an overview of each facility system to determine how electrical energy and natural gas were being used at the facility and to identify and develop potential costsaving projects.
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.
Compressed air is used as a convenient and often necessary source of air flow to perform blow-offs, cooling, or drying.  And since compressed air is a costly utility, a frequent recommendation in this magazine and audits is to reduce the compressed air use by using high efficiency engineered nozzles.  Using these nozzles is a good practice as they are designed in a way that uses the compressed air to accelerate the surrounding air to deliver the same mass transfer effect as a standard nozzle (or tube) with a much larger orifice.
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.
A small Australian company, Basil V.R. Greatrex (BVRG), is shaking up the compressed air industry in Australia. While other companies focus on the sale of more and bigger compressed air production equipment, BVRG is helping customers reduce their compressed air system size and lower system flow by attacking waste, inappropriate use, and at the same time improving air quality.
Facility managers, how would you like the peace of mind from knowing the system you had installed or modified is thoroughly tested - to the same degree as a new production line?  How would you like to be confident that the money you spent is still paying back benefits, year after year? 
At a Midwest window manufacturing plant, the cooling process for the plastic frame pieces, after leaving the extruder, was critical to process productivity and quality. Too much cooling air (or not enough cooling air) would generate scrap and rejected product. The plants’ 17 extruders and 55 separate blow-offs in these lines had similar cooling stations at the cooling boxes. They consisted of about three hoses at each exit frame angled down to the extruded piece moving past it. The compressed air flow was controlled by a manual control valve set by an operator. The operator used his experience to control the flow delivered and thereby control the product quality.
A major poultry processor and packager spends an estimated $96,374 annually on energy to operate the compressed air system at its plant located in a southern U.S. state.  The current average electric rate, at this plant, is 8 cents per kWh.
“Retro-Commissioning” (ReCX) of compressed air systems has become a trendy activity with many utility demand-side-management programs emerging in the last 5-10 years.  This is intended to be the process of “tuning up” a compressed air system, getting low cost savings from mostly adjustments and repairs.  The term was borrowed from the building/HVAC industry, where it means to get a system operating as it was originally “commissioned”. 
UniFirst is one of North America’s largest workwear and textile service companies. They outfit nearly two million workers in clean uniforms and protective clothing each workday. Founded in an eight-stall garage in 1936, the Company has grown to 240 customer servicing locations throughout the U.S. and Canada servicing 300,000 business customer locations. The subject of this article is an energy-saving Air Demand Analysis (ADA), conducted by Kaeser Compressors, at UniFirst’s centralized 320,000 square foot hub Distribution Center located in Owensboro, Kentucky.
MHPSC Canada is a large facility specializing in machining and manufacturing large pieces for power generation (gas turbines, large hydro, wind) and deep sea oil and gas operations.  Smaller machining and manufacturing are also done in the facility, as well as welding and piping fabrication. MHPSC purchased flow meters for two systems, the Large and Small Machine Shops, to measure the total compressed air production.  Since the two systems have piping that is physically close together, it was felt that there was an opportunity to tie the two systems together to save energy.  The readings showed that the compressed air demand was indeed low enough in the two systems to enable a 100 hp VFD compressor to feed the combined systems.