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.

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.

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.

Leaks

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.

Pneumatics

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.
EnSave, an energy auditing company based in Richmond, Vermont, recently performed compressed air audits at two facilities of a leading U.S. steel manufacturer. Both plants are mills that melt, cast, and roll steel to produce a variety of products, including: rebar, merchant bar, steel flats, rounds, fence posts, channel bar, steel channels, steel angles, structural angles and structural channels. These products are used in a diverse group of markets, including: construction, energy, transportation and agriculture. Compressed air is provided at 100 psig in both plants for a variety of applications — from optical sensor cooling to pneumatic cylinders for stacking finished products.
Compressed air has moved to higher visibility in the energy conservation field, and the buzzwords abound: “the fourth utility” — “your most expensive utility” — “eight times more expensive than electricity” — “a quarter-inch leak costs $9,000 in wasted energy.” This greater awareness has also produced compressed air auditors that are springing up like summer dandelions. With audits available from many sources, it is important to understand what plant operations, engineers and maintenance managers should expect from a complete audit — or more aptly — a complete air system review.
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.
Many thousands of dollars of annual electrical savings are being achieved worldwide using special purge reduction controls on desiccant air dryers. These controls reduce the expensive purge air that must flow through the dryer to regenerate the desiccant beds. But, unexpected problems with these controls can cause hidden problems that can reduce or eliminate the savings.
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.
Compressed Air Performance Specialists (CAPS Inc.) is a compressed air consultancy located in Calgary, Alberta. In its most recent compressed air project, the company reduced a 200-hp, multi-compressor system down to a single, 100-hp variable speed drive (VSD) air compressor utilizing 75 hp of compressor energy (kWh), resulting in $70,000 in annual energy savings.
There is a partly true idea floating around some plant maintenance circles that “compressed air is free.” Readers of this journal know that isn’t true. But, what if non-compressed air could be seen as “free?” Is there something we can get for free from nature to reduce the cost of our compressed air? What if lower temperature intake air was nature’s gift? What if all we need is a bit of tin to duct air from a different source?
Replacing air compressors, dryers and filters with more efficient models has saved electrical costs and improved compressed air reliability at the Canada Bread plant in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In addition to this, plant personnel found some additional savings by reducing air leakage and eliminating inappropriate uses. As a result, the plant reduced its compressed air electrical costs by 58 percent and qualified for a utility incentive.
A major snack food manufacturer spends an estimated $148,220 annually on energy to operate the compressed air system at its food processing plant located in the Mid-Atlantic area.  As electric rates rise from their current average of 8 cents per kWh, their annual expenditure will only increase.
Cement production facilities have a significant number of dust collectors. Many have continuing problems with short bag life and low-pressure problems at the further points from the central air system. They often run on timers. When they try to run on demand control, they often get extreme short cycling, which causes even more bag problems. Most have gauges at the entry, on at least half of the dust collectors, and the compressed air feed lines are always the same size as the connector opening. This article reviews where these problems come from and provides some troubleshooting ideas.