Industrial Energy Savings    

Compressor Controls

This is a food processing plant where processes and standards are controlled by FDA to AIB standards. Annual plant electric costs for compressed air production, as operating today, are $116,765 per year. If the electric costs of $3,323 associated with operating ancillary equipment such as dryers are included, the total electric costs for operating the air system are $120,088 per year. These estimates are based upon a blended electric rate of $0.085/kWh.
Specifying a control valve for Pressure/Flow Control service should be a relatively straightforward process. The range of compressed air flow and pressures must be known along with the target delivered air pressure. With this information, the performance specifications published by the various suppliers can be referenced for selecting a valve package. Often, however, the valve selected is too large in size to ensure it will have sufficient capacity to satisfy current and future flow requirements. Valve manufacturers use different design criteria in rating their units and in how their product is presented. There are no standards.
It is common to see energy assessment specialists treat centrifugal compressors like positive displacement compressors when attempting to reduce compressed air system energy consumption. Unfortunately, centrifugal compressors are normally much larger, and miscalculations can easily represent hundreds of thousands of dollars in overestimated energy savings. These errors are not malicious; they result from oversimplified best practices perpetuated by individuals with limited centrifugal compressor knowledge. This type of knowledge is not readily available and most energy assessment specialists do not have access to engineering teams responsible for the technical development and design of centrifugal compressors.
Energy conservation measures (ECMs) associated with compressed air have received a significant amount of attention over the years, mostly due to a reasonably short financial return compared with other energy-consuming equipment. Over time, many of the recommended corrective actions to reduce compressed air energy consumption were simplified so much that they did not lead to positive results. One of the most common compressed air ECMs is reducing system pressure, and it leverages the best practice calculation —.5 percent power per psi — outlined in the Department of Energy’s Compressed Air Challenge. This article highlights more common issues associated with estimating energy conservation resulting from changing system pressure.
Energy efficiency and sustainability solutions are often associated with more obvious initiatives--such as installing compact fluorescent bulbs—but those solutions fail to dig deeper for the “hidden gems” that can have a much greater impact. For manufacturing and building engineers or anyone else dealing with high potential energy consumption and inrush current demands, compressed air systems are one of the first places to look for significant energy savings and greater sustainability.
A recently completed energy efficiency improvement programme at the Britvic Beckton bottling plant has resulted in substantial energy savings and a positive impact on the company’s carbon emissions allocation.
A large multi-service public utility provider was faced with an ongoing problem. The utility, which services 93,000 retail and wholesale customers, employed five oil-free compressors at one power generation facility, but, if they needed to take down Unit 2 at the facility, it almost always pulled Unit 1 down with it, overloading the system’s capacity and causing service interruptions.  
This building products factory spent an estimated $240,000 annually on energy to operate the compressed air system at their Midwestern facility. This figure will increase as electric rates rise from their current average of 7.8 cents per kWh. The set of projects recommended, by the system assessment, reduced these energy costs by an estimated $104,336 or 43% of current use. Project costs totalled $73,000, representing a simple payback period of 8 months.
“I don’t understand. I attended the Compressed Air Challenge® Fundamentals and Advanced courses. I read every article and book I could find on improving the efficiency of compressed air systems. I developed great ideas about how to reduce my compressed air consumption. We fixed leaks, “right-sized” filters to reduce pressure drop, changed piping, moved some processes to shifts that used less compressed air, bought low consumption nozzles and educated our entire workforce. We did all of this work and I still have six out of six compressors running. Reducing my air consumption does not appear to have reduced my air production!”  
Air Demand Increase of 43% Results in Only a 5% Energy Cost Increase Compressed air is an expensive medium; yet, many compressed air systems are wastefully managed with minimal system transparency. Capturing essential system performance data and monitoring critical air quality data is not only eye opening, it enables future investments in compressed air systems to be fact-based and traceable.
The Trinity Mirror Group print works on Oldham is one of the UK’s largest newspaper printers. The nine presses in the facility produce around 1million papers every day, including the Independent, the Daily Mirror and a range of local, regional and sports titles. Printing on this scale does not come cheap in energy terms, however. The plant’s annual electricity bill is in the order of £1.5millon. With energy prices on the rise, and a strong desire to improve environmental performance and reduce its carbon footprint, the plant’s management has recently embarked on a project to cut energy use substantially.