Industrial Utility Efficiency    

System Assessment

This article discusses some experiences in using cellular connected data loggers to perform a compressed air assessment during a time when travel was restricted. While not ideal, this exercise identified huge savings for this customer.

Compressor Controls

As part of its ongoing corporate initiative to find ways to reduce its energy bills, and the costly impact on the bottom line, a cleaning products plant, located southwest of Chicago, recently focused on improving their compressed air system operation. This company is a global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services. This article discussed their efforts to improve the operation of their compressed air system by implementing an innovative compressed air monitoring and control system.

Piping Storage

Since completion of the system upgrade in the fall of 2020, PC Forge is on track to save an average of 1.9 million kWh and $266,000.00 per year in energy costs – and increase the production capability of its forging operation by 40%. The project also achieved a one-year payback with a $245,000 incentive from Government of Ontario’s utility Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

End Uses

There are a tremendous variety of unique and creative ways people in the food industry have overcome their need for compressed air blowoffs used for cleaning, drying, cooling, conveying and overall processing. You may have seen some of them yourself. It is not uncommon to view open copper tubes, pipes with a crushed end, plugs or caps with holes drilled into them, modular flex coolant lines or nozzles designed for liquid application but blowing air.

Pressure

Most industrial systems like compressed air have essentially random demand if you look at the long-term life cycle of the system. Hundreds, even thousands of independent small and large subsystems require constant or varying flow. These demands are typically not timed or synchronized with each other, so they aggregate to a fairly random flow profile, within a range. That range changes significantly when production processes change. Certainly a 2-week audit might show some patterns that appear predictable for demand A (“production”) and demand B (“non-production”) or day type, but they change over time as the plant adapts to new production systems and removes old ones. If demand was that profile forever, a lesser experienced auditor might be tempted to size one set of compressors that work perfectly for that profile but not for alternates.

Air Treatment/N2

Regular testing of pure gases helps to ensure the safety of consumers and of end products. Whether the pure gas is used directly for medical patients, or in the manufacturing of food, beverages, or pharmaceutical products, quality is of the highest importance. Inadequate levels of purity or unsafe contamination can be detrimental to the products or consumers.

Leaks

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.

Pneumatics

In manufacturing and packaging facilities that rely on pneumatics, there’s a four-letter word worse than virtually any other: leak. Unidentified air leakage and unexpected maintenance in pneumatic systems are significant sources of revenue and productivity loss but identifying the cause of leakages and preventing unforeseen downtime is typically a challenge.

Vacuum Blowers

Operating the vacuum system at higher levels (then necessary) affects the needed volumetric flow to compensate for leaks. This required compensation of volume (ACFM) must be added to the nominal production flow demand. The ambient air leak into the system will expand to the highest vacuum level, which is known as the “Expansion Ratio.”
By finding a better way to control and manage its compressed air system, North American Lighting, Paris, Ill., has reduced its total compressed air energy use by 27 percent – and in the process – saves over 1,100,000 kWh/year for a total annual savings of $91,000. The project also achieved a payback of less than one year.
A food processor in Western Canada hired an auditor to assess the energy efficiency of its compressed air system. The results revealed surprises about the operation of some important elements of the system, and detected that the air compressors were having control gap problems. Additionally, the audit led to initial energy savings of $20,000 – and identified the potential to achieve overall operational savings of 45%. The following details some of the audit findings and results.
Machines for filling milk or juice must often work around the clock. Given the critical importance of uptime, Elopak opted for Aventics food-compliant pneumatics when developing its E-PS120A - the first fully aseptic filling machine for gable top packaging. With an output of up to 12,000 cartons per hour, disruptions and downtime are not welcome with the aseptic filling machine.
Whenever we start a compressed-air energy survey there are always two key topics plant personnel feel are paramount – leaks and reducing pressure. In this installment of our series on missed demand-side opportunities we’ll address the importance of compressed air system pressure.
The University of Manitoba Bannatyne Campus, Canada, upgraded its compressed air system to include variable speed drive (VSD) air compressors and the use of internal heat-of-compression (HOC) drying, replacing oil-free air compressors and refrigerated dryers that reached the end of useful life. In doing so, the campus reduced annual energy consumption by 15%, improved the quality of the compressed air to modern day instrument air standards and gained additional compressed-air capacity. The local utility also awarded the medical campus an incentive of $13,500, offsetting the cost of the initiative.  
Replacing unreliable air compressors is often a smart choice. Sometimes there is a better one. Take the case of a wallboard plant with two compressed air systems, including one for its board mill and another for its rock mill. Each had two 100 horsepower air compressors, all of which constantly overheated. When they did, plant personnel had to scramble to turn on a machine manually every time a unit shut down. Three units ran the plant so any shutdown had them walking on pins and needles.
Air Operated Double Diaphragm (AODD) Pumps are popular and versatile. Often, they also offer an excellent opportunity to lower the demand for compressed air, especially given the latest advances in controls and the energy savings to be realized.
As many well know, system measurement is essential to ensuring a compressed air system is running efficiently and effectively, with good air quality and adequate pressure.  This is also well understood by a multi-national food company (name has been withheld to protect the innocent) who started a focused effort to measure and improve their compressed air systems in their many processing plants worldwide. 
Chicago Heights Steel, Chicago Heights, Ill., leveraged an advanced data monitoring system and adopted a demand-based compressor air management approach to save 2.5 million kWh and $215,037 per year in energy costs. With an incentive of $188, 714 from local utility ComEd, the project delivered a payback of 2.4 months.
As energy costs continue to rise it becomes increasingly important for industrial operations to reduce waste and inefficiencies wherever possible. It’s why an innovative company known as Lightapp has developed an intelligent resource management software platform to help manufacturers and other industrial users reduce energy consumption and save costs in the process.