Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Compressor Controls

Often, multiple centrifugal air compressors are set up to simply react to air demand, which requires the system to not only meet the new demand, but also make up for air depleted in the main header. This typically results in too much supply, which results in bypassing the air to atmosphere. The result is wasted energy use.
Many OEMs of air compressors, dryers, sensors and master controls are integrating monitoring features and capabilities into their components. It would seem a no-brainer to keep it simple and use those sensors and systems for both control and monitoring. What could be simpler? 
Baseline measurements include flow, power, pressure, production output, and other relevant variables impacting compressed air use. These data evaluate trending averages to develop Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and Energy Performance Indicator (EnPI) parameters and establish base‑year performance. The focus of this article is the application, evaluation, and analysis of baseline measurements to provide information necessary to improve Compressed Air Supply Efficiency.
A chemical packaging facility had done everything right when they last upgraded their compressed air system a few years ago. They installed a Variable Speed Drive (VSD) air compressor and implemented other energy efficiency measures, but plant expansions caused increased system demand, which exceeded the capacity of the system. The packaging lines were now seeing low pressure, causing shut downs in production. And projections showed plant demand would increase even further.
After getting its start manufacturing cost-effective products to the healthcare industry, 40 years later, 1888 Mills has become the fourth largest towel manufacturer in the world, and the largest towel manufacturer in the U.S. With facilities in the United States, Pakistan and Bangladesh, 1888 Mills’ towels are used in almost every corner of the world. 1888 Mills is recognized as a leader in innovation in the textile industry and produces 176,000 pounds of towels per week.
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.
The plant produces both molded and blow molded plastic parts on a 5 day per week, three shift schedule. Production and maintenance sometimes occurs on weekends, occasionally requiring the air compressors to run on a 24 x 7 basis so the practice was to leave the compressed air system always pressurized. The system consisted of three modulating lubricated screw compressors one sized at 150 hp and the others 125 hp (3 units), each controlled with their local compressor controllers.
Load-sharing is an important part of a multiple centrifugal-compressor master control system. It minimizes blow-off based on the available turn-down. In addition, remote start-stop saves more energy if load floats between different ranges. Finally, adding a screw compressor and implementing a hybrid control system might save the most energy and provide the best back-up. In any case, a well-instrumented system allows engineers and operators to assess, optimize and tune the system.
When a system has the right combination of VFD and base-load air compressors, how do you coordinate their control? What tells the air compressors to run and load, to have just enough (or no) base-load air compressors and a VFD running, all the time air is needed? Appropriate master controls are needed. These controls are often called “sequencers” or “master control systems”.
A newly constructed ethanol plant experienced control gap issues shortly after comissioning.  This article discusses the cause of the issue and how the problem was solved.
A large pharmaceutical company needed huge flow rates of 30 psig air to aerate multiple fermentation processes which create food-grade materials.  Flow could vary from about 12,000 scfm to 35,000 scfm.  There were a variety of batch processes, mostly running independently.  An hour-by-hour schedule for anticipated air flow is developed every afternoon for the next day.  Based on that schedule, the boiler operators run the air compressors that can handle the load range for the whole day. In reality, the peak flow can be higher than anticipated.