The Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) has released a new report entitled Compressed air systems, emerging efficiency improvements and alternative technologies: review, background research and examples. It documents A2EP’s investigation into more efficient alternative technologies that could partially or completely replace compressed air systems.
This is because, while compressed air systems (CAS) are widely used across industry and often described as the “fourth utility” in conjunction with electricity, gas, and water, compressors are relatively inefficient, can be very expensive to operate and maintain, and result in high standby losses.
The objective of the report was to aid businesses that were seeking opportunities to avoid or reduce the use of compressed air by using higher efficiency alternative technologies or processes. The report identified that CAS can be very expensive in terms of plant purchases, but also to operate and maintain. CAS can also be very noisy and dangerous in the field. The report also highlighted that although CAS is popular in business, the inefficiency and losses are often not realised in many business systems audits and assessments.
The report took a ‘systems and services’ approach to compressed air replacement by defining the end use service to be provided and then identifying opportunities for new/alternative systems and equipment to deliver the service.
Two end-use services were identified that Dynamic Engineering Australia was very interested in - low pressure air opportunities in cleaning, cooling and drying; and cleaning surfaces or parts. Dynamic Engineering is the distributor for Air Control Industries’ drying systems and specialised air blowers and fans, and JetBlack Safety’s personnel cleaning systems.
The report gave examples of these new technologies in use today:
1. Low pressure blowers replace compressed air – XTRAC in the UK uses low pressure, high velocity air from the JetBlack Safety cleaning system to clean and dry components to avoid moisture-contaminated air promoting rust, and for operator safety.
2. Cable drying process – Prysimian in the UK manufactures cable but found compressed air-based systems failed to remove excess water, causing corrosion and increasing maintenance. Air Control Industries’ LINE-Dry cable and wire dryer - comprised of a drying station and free-standing air blower - provided a dedicated solution that is more efficient and means less OHS risks with water on floors.
3. Replace compressed air with precisely controlled air knife system – Kronospan in the UK (a wood-based panel producer) used to use compressed air to remove dust and manufacturing debris from their laminated flooring panels. However, once they installed Air Control Industries’ blower-powered air knife system, they saw an operating cost savings of 96%, lower noise levels, and most importantly, more controllable and better directed air flow that reduced potential product contamination. (An air knife provides an uninterrupted sheet of precisely controlled, high velocity air).