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.
During an Energy Review at a relatively new health care garment factory, in the Southwest, we found all three of the 100 psig nominally rated rotary screw air compressors were operating at 115-120 psig continuously. We asked the Production Superintendent if this was normal or if something had recently changed. He explained that initially they operated two air compressors but had to begin running the 3rd unit in ‘trim’ mode after some converting machines were up-graded. Then, a new larger converting machine was recently installed and air pressure quickly became a production issue. Since capital funds were tight, the project engineering team determined the third air compressor had sufficient capacity.  
Energy, in all forms, has always been a key Lantech focus. It was, in fact, a key element of the core packaging problem the company’s founders set out to address. They saw an opportunity to capitalize on an inexpensive and under-used resource – stretch film – to displace a high materials cost and energy intensive way of unitizing pallet loads of products – shrink bagging.
Figuring out the energy savings for the switch from pneumatic to electric tools requires an estimate of energy use for each case. The effect of replacing a few tools in a large compressed air system may be too small to detect using power monitoring on the air compressors. However, it is still a good practice, and when part of a larger program to reduce air consumption, the combined efforts will amount to something measureable. Another positive aspect may be that reduced compressed air use frees up needed air compressor capacity.
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.
Insufficient focus at the design phase will kill a project. In one aerospace project, insufficient detail was paid to the physical size of the air compressor. The compressor didn’t fit in the allocated space—requiring the extension of the building, and costing tens of thousands of unbudgeted dollars. That had a significant, negative impact on the project return. 
In many parts of the country—and especially the Pacific Northwest—interest has surged in completing energy-saving compressed air system upgrades. The financial assistance from incentive programs, combined with the falling costs of efficiency-increasing technology, has made these projects very attractive to all those involved. The benefits for society, power companies and customers are immense.
To produce healthy, high-quality cooking oil, this food processing company crushes and processes oil seeds shipped in from local farms. The oil produced is thought to be the healthiest cooking oil available, because it is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), like omega-3 fatty acids. To increase the energy efficiency of its oil seed crushing and processing facility, the company optimized its compressed air system by combining three separate systems into one. Some end-use optimization was done to correct low pressure, particularly caused by some critical high-flow, short-duration events.
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.