Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Air Compressors

Larger air compressors, typically over 500 hp, in refineries, pulp and paper plants, chemical and other processing plants often have high-speed, multi-stage air compressors called “centrifugal” air compressors. As seen from a total system perspective, they are not much different than screw air compressors. They compress air to plant pressure from atmospheric conditions, and deliver it to the dryer. These types of air compressors have no internal wearing parts, besides bearings and seals, and are very reliable and efficient, at their best efficiency point. 
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.
The 2017 AICD Conference and Exhibition was held May 21-23 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada.  The membership of the Association of Independent Distributors came together to share ideas and discuss business methods to help their businesses prosper.  “The AICD has grown by 15% with 9 new distributor members,” said AICD President Phil Kruger. “The event provides both members and vendors with excellent educational and networking opportunities designed to help grow our businesses.”
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.
As an end user, have you ever heard the message to put in the biggest VFD air compressor, and the system will always be reliable and efficient.  Why do an audit?  Just add up the compressors on site and put one VFD for that size or larger.  Why have the complexity of multiple compressors, storage, sequencing, etc?  Even better, put in two of them, one for the whole system, and one for back-up.  If you could wave a wand, wouldn’t that be what every system should look like?  Perfect peace and efficiency, with 100% confidence of reliability.
The 2017 Hannover Messe attracted 225,000 visitors with 75,000 coming from outside Germany. The over-arching theme of the event was the Industrial Internet of Things – or Industry 4.0, as it is known in Germany. Dr. Jochen Köckler, Member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe commented,“Over the past five days, Hannover has served as a global hub for all things related to Industrie 4.0. Every sector involved in the digitalization of industry was on hand to showcase its answers to the key question faced by industrial enterprises everywhere: How can I best get my company into shape for the digital future?
A complete compressed air system assessment should provide detailed information on both the supply and demand sides of the system. The supply-side refers to the equipment supplying compressed air – the air compressor, dryers, filters, piping and storage tanks.  The purpose of this article is to illustrate what information we believe a factory should receive from a supply-side system assessment and more importantly – what information a plant should always know about their compressed air system.
This article will talk about testing.  I will assume a “typical” system, a screw air compressor mix with regenerative dryers. Testing has to be done at several stages and locations, due to the cobbled-together nature of a compressed air system.
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.
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.