So you’ve purchased an ultrasonic leak detector after a sales person gave you a demonstration on detecting compressed air leaks. You’ve read all those articles on how air leaks are wasteful, expensive and leakage programs provide good paybacks. Perhaps you’ve even had a go at a leakage survey. Either way, by now you’ve realised leakage programs are not as simple as they sound and without an ongoing plan of attack, you will probably never see the results you thought you could achieve. This article is written to illuminate common mistakes made in leak surveys and hopes to provide guidance on how to turn that around.
One of the best ways to reduce compressed air costs is to look for ways to reduce leakage flow, an unnecessary load that is a constant demand on the compressed air system. This flow is never-ending and occurs during production periods, and during quiet times at night or on weekends. Reducing the flow in a well-controlled compressed air system will result in the reduction of compressor energy consumption, usually by about \$1,750 per every 10 cfm, and often reduces pressure loss, allowing your machines to run better. This article discusses some recent experiences in using an acoustical imaging leak detector.
Petro Chemical Energy, Inc. (PCE) specializes in energy loss surveys for the refining and chemical industries. We’ve been providing Compressed Air Leak Surveys, Nitrogen Leak Surveys, Steam Leak Surveys and Steam Trap Surveys – for over twentyfive (25) years. We operate totally independent of all equipment manufacturers to ensure our clients receive a complete and unbiased report of the leaks in their facility. PCE has conducted compressed air leak surveys for hundreds of customers at thousands of sites. Undetected, compressed air and gas leaks rob efficiency in manufacturing and processing industries. As a result, businesses lose millions of dollars annually in energy costs and lost production time.
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.
A small Australian company, Basil V.R. Greatrex (BVRG), is shaking up the compressed air industry in Australia. While other companies focus on the sale of more and bigger compressed air production equipment, BVRG is helping customers reduce their compressed air system size and lower system flow by attacking waste, inappropriate use, and at the same time improving air quality.
There is an often-quoted ratio of 7.5 hp input to one horsepower output used to illustrate the inefficiency of the energy transfer in compressed air systems. What this is saying is that you receive the benefit of only 13 percent of the energy you put into your air compressors as mechanical output at the shaft of a typical compressed air powered tool. While this ratio is generally true for compressed air system awareness discussion purposes, you should understand that in the real world compressed air efficiency is usually much lower.
Compressed air optimization measures adopted by PTMSB have reduced the consumption of compressed air by 31 percent resulting in savings of about 3,761,000 kWh per year in energy consumption. The monetary savings are MYR 1,090,627 per year (\$255,000 USD). The CO2 reduction is estimated at 2,735 ton per year.
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.
A Canadian fiberglass plant has completed a lengthy compressed air improvement journey and achieved significant efficiency gains by applying “the systems approach.” Along the way, the company ran across many frustrating problems, the solutions to which were only determined after the entire system was monitored holistically using data loggers. The overall compressed air audit led to a reduction in energy usage of 48 percent, yielding savings worth \$17,500 per year. The project also qualified for a large utility incentive of \$32,000 with a calculated payback of 4.4 years.
Sometime in mid-2015, I received a call from a project engineer at a major plastics firm. He had a troubling issue with one of his PET bottle plants. The bottom line was this: They could not run all five high production blow-molding machines at one time—even though they were able to do so 18 months previously.
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.