Industrial Utility Efficiency    

System Assessment

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.

Compressor Controls

When a successful Midwestern United States-based packaging company reached out to Cleveland, Ohio-based Diversified Air Systems, Inc. (Diversified), it was simply looking to fulfill its need for backup air. Compressed air is a vital component of the packaging company’s business, used for a variety of purposes, such as in its corrugating machines, conveyors, actuators, and more. In the end, the company received much more than just air redundancy, including a new variable speed drive, two-stage air compressor, a completely reconfigured and upgraded piping system, improved system efficiencies, energy savings, and a significant energy rebate.

Piping Storage

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.  

End Uses

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.

Pressure

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.

Air Treatment/N2

This northeastern U.S. automotive manufacturing facility spends $269,046 annually on energy to operate their compressed air system. This figure will increase as electric rates are raised from their current average of .019 cents per kWh. The set of projects, in this system assessment, reduce these energy costs by $110,166 or forty percent. Reliability of compressed air quality, however, is the main concern in this plant and the primary focus of this system assessment.

Leaks

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.

Pneumatics

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.

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.
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.
In aerospace manufacturing, tiny details matter most. For instance, if proper torque is not applied to the screws and bolts fastening an aircraft fuselage, catastrophic failures can result. Compressed air is used to power the tools needed to apply that torque, making the compressed air system a critical part of the facility, though it largely stays behind the scene.
When a successful Midwestern United States-based packaging company reached out to Cleveland, Ohio-based Diversified Air Systems, Inc. (Diversified), it was simply looking to fulfill its need for backup air. Compressed air is a vital component of the packaging company’s business, used for a variety of purposes, such as in its corrugating machines, conveyors, actuators, and more. In the end, the company received much more than just air redundancy, including a new variable speed drive, two-stage air compressor, a completely reconfigured and upgraded piping system, improved system efficiencies, energy savings, and a significant energy rebate.
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.
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.
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.