Energy Efficient Compressors Making Compressed Air System Energy Efficient

| Author / Editor: S Raghunandan / Dominik Stephan

In this era of energy efficiency, there is huge scope for saving energy through compressed air systems. New as well as existing systems can give better results with the help of few energy conserving steps. Here are some ways to save energy and ultimately cost, through these systems.

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Centac — Oil-free centrifugal compressors - A tradition of proven reliability, ultimate efficiency and unrivaled productivity
Centac — Oil-free centrifugal compressors - A tradition of proven reliability, ultimate efficiency and unrivaled productivity
(Picture: Ingersoll-Rand India)

Compressed air, is widely acknowledged as the ‘4th Utility’ after electricity, natural gas and water. However, it is one of the major energy consuming utilities in any industry. Estimates indicate that compressed air accounts for 10–30 per cent of the total power consumed in different industries. As a result, it proves to be a very expensive source of energy with the actual output being only 10 to 15 per cent of the input power. This makes compressed air systems an important cost center for improving the productivity of the overall plant.

Even in a compressed air system in which the owner does not see any energy efficiency issues, there is a great opportunity for saving and reducing operating cost. Such a compressed air system can significantly be overpowered with a more energy efficient system.

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85% Costs for Compressors are Energy–Related

Additional Information
The Energy Checklist
Six Steps to Optimize your Air System

Demand side – Establish correct air needs for the points-of-use (flow & pressure)

Distribution side – Establish the leakage in your system and proactively manage it; analyse the system capacitance and optimize it; track the pressure profiles across the

plant for supply - demand mismatch and minimize the pressure drops

Supply side – Evaluate the health of each compressor and the support systems; optimize controls to match the system dynamics

For an average 10-year life cycle cost of any compressor, more than 85 per cent is incurred towards energy and only 10–15 per cent towards initial investment and maintenance. The target thus, should be a bigger pie i.e. greater energy cost. An optimistic 10–20 per cent reduction in energy osts could have a major positive impact in an organization’s operating margin and can significantly increase return on investment.

All over the world, majority of compressed air systems are not energy efficient. As a system owner, one has a great opportunity to improve operating margins and reduce costs. As such, any productivity enhancement project in the organization must consider compressed air systems as one of its key constituents.

Hannover Messe 2012
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Normally in a compressed air system, saving opportunities can include:

  • A. Supply side – 10–2 per cent
  • B. Distribution side – 6–8 per cent
  • C. Demand side – 4–6 per cent

These figures increase depending on the type of the industry as well as on the condition of the existing compressed air system.