Industrial Utility Efficiency    


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.

Air Compressors

There are many choices of compressor technology and types of controls that can be used for variable demands. Some examples are rotary screw compressors with inlet valve control: variable speed drives: load/unload control; or centrifugal compressors with variable inlet guide vanes. However, in many cases, the efficiency of the overall compression process can be reduced significantly during lower flow demands, leading to more power per unit of air flow being delivered. It is very important to evaluate different available options and see how a plant can run most efficiently.

Air Treatment

Compressed air is dried to prevent condensation and corrosion which can disrupt manufacturing processes and contaminate products. Water is the primary promotor of chemical reactions and physical erosion in compressed air systems. A myriad of desiccant dryer designs have been devised to provide “commercially dry” air, air having a dew point of -40°F or less, to prevent corrosion.  Desiccant dryers use solid adsorbents in granule form to reduce the moisture content of compressed air.


High speed bearing technology is applicable for aeration blowers operating at much higher speeds than the typical 60Hz, 3600RPM for cast multistage units. High Speed Turbo (HST) units are usually single stage (though some utilize multiple cores) and rotate from 15,000 to 50,000RPM. At such high speeds, standard roller bearings cannot offer the industry standard L10 bearing life. Two types of bearing technologies have come to dominate the wastewater treatment market for these types of machines: airfoil and magnetically levitated. Often the two technologies are compared as equals, however, in many significant ways they are not.

Compressor Controls

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.


Compressed Air Best Practices® Magazine interviewed Mr. Warwick Rampley, the National Sales Manager for Sydney (Australia) based, Basil V.R. Greatrex Pty Ltd. It’s not every day one is asked to deliver a system able to provide both a reliable compressed air dew point of -80°C (-112°F) and high purity nitrogen.  We work with some excellent technology suppliers and have engineered a rather interesting system.  Although our firm was founded in 1919, this application is one of the most demanding we’ve encountered. Basil V.R. Greatrex is a unique company as we focus only on compressed air measurement, compressed air quality and compressed air efficiency.


The design of wastewater treatment plants is changing, and it has something to do with LEGO® bricks. More specifically, it has to do with how large and complex LEGO structures are built. If you follow the instructions carefully, you build module after module, eventually piecing them together to create a fully functional and cohesive unit.


It’s one thing to move materials during the production process, but when it’s a finished product on the packaging line, choosing the right material handling system is essential. Getting it wrong results in squandered production time when product loss occurs, and wasted raw materials.

Cooling Systems

As a result of compressed air awareness training and a focus on energy management, two facilities in different parts of the world have reduced their compressed air demand substantially by removing vortex style cabinet coolers from some of their electrical panels and reworking the cooling systems.  These facilities were previously unaware of the high cost of compressed air and how much could be saved if other methods of cooling were used. This article describes some of their efforts in demand reduction.
One of the statements made in the Compressed Air Challenge’s Fundamentals of Compressed Air Systems seminar is that improvements can always be made to every compressed air system, including new ones. The statement definitely applies to a Canadian pork processing facility built a few years ago. This article is based on a compressed air audit performed two years into the life of a brand new plant. The audit found numerous problems and made recommendations that helped reduce plant compressed air operating costs by 60 percent. 
A modern dairy without compressed air is nowadays no longer imaginable, and it is used primarily for driving control units and machinery. Approximately 60 percent of the compressed air generated is used for packaging lines. However, compressed air is one of the most expensive energy sources in dairies. Even in carefully maintained compressed air systems, about 20 percent of the generated energy is lost through leaks. In particular, vacuum leakages in separators result in high energy losses. A small leak can cost up to several thousands of Euros a year.
Critical applications — such as semiconductor manufacturing, food processing and automobile spray finishing — require high quality, clean compressed air. Otherwise, those manufacturing facilities are doomed to costly rework, product recalls and a tarnished reputation. “In semiconductor manufacturing, a small particle can ruin one of the die on a multi-die semiconductor wafer,” explained Dan Ryan, Engineering Manager, Parker Hannifin Corporation – Gas Separation and Filtration Division. “Even when it comes to things like painting automobiles, a few small, invisible particulates, depending on the makeup of them, can actually cause a visible flaw in the paint job.”
Proper air preparation significantly increases the process and production reliability of machines. Particles, water and oils in compressed air reduce the service life and functionality of components and systems. They also impair productivity and energy efficiency. In this article, a variety of air filtration and air treatment products are outlined and discussed, along with ancillary equipment like drains. Additionally, the article provides an overview of the compressed air purity classes defined by ISO 8573-1:2010.
Compressed air is used in more than 70 percent of all manufacturing activities, ranging from highly critical applications that may impact product quality to general “shop” uses. When compressed air is used in the production of pharmaceuticals, food, beverages, medical devices, and other products, there seems to be confusion on what testing needs to be performed.
In compressed air systems, every adjustment or system modification has consequences, so, before making changes, it’s important to understand how those changes will affect each piece of equipment.  For example, simple things — such as lowering the compressor’s pressure set point, or failing to maintain the compressor’s aftercooler — can result in moisture contamination occurring out in the system. Why? Because the effects of these actions reduce the air dryer’s capacity. In this article, I address some ideas that can make your system more reliable.
Centrifugal compressors are dynamic, and each has a characteristic curve of rising pressure as capacity decreases. Without any control system, the compressor would operate along this natural curve. A centrifugal compressor's flow and pressure are typically controlled by a combination of an inlet control device and an unloading valve (UV).
We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, or, as it is known in Germany, Industry 4.0. In broad terms, the concept describes manufacturing facilities where all of the machines — including the air compressors, along with their corresponding sensors and air treatment equipment — communicate with each other autonomously, recording performance metrics to a local controller, a wireless network, and an external database. These communicative abilities are enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), in which intelligent, networked devices link everything back to a main data hub.
The introduction of rotary screw air compressors controlled by variable speed drives (VSDs) is one of the best energy efficiency innovations introduced to the industry in the past few years. This style of compressor control can significantly reduce the energy wasted by compressors running in the unloaded condition. But the type of VSD control offered by various manufacturers can differ, and some of these differences can affect the efficiency of the system. This article discusses some little known tweaks to VSD compressor control, including some using hidden features that can sometimes be implemented to enhance the savings gained by the installation of this type of compressors.
In recent years, we have seen an upward trend of higher production manufacturers wanting to integrate their air gauging quality checks from a stand-alone, outside-of-machine device where the operator is performing a manual check to an automated in-process gauge. There are several reasons for this trend, including higher quality standards, tighter tolerances, as well as running a leaner operation. The benefits are 100 percent inspection of the required geometric callout, as well as handshaking between measuring device and machine to make each piece better than the prior one. It also removes any bad parts.