Compressed air is typically the most expensive utility at a plant site and compressed air is often vital to the operation of an industrial facility. Poor design and maintenance can make compressed air systems a major area of energy waste. Compressed air assessments typically target four primary areas:
Compressed air conditioning
Compressed air use
Compressed air leaks
Compressed air investigations require field measurements combined with powerful computer software to provide an accurate and detailed analysis. It is extremely important to conduct investigations with a system wide approach because a change in one area will impact the entire system.
The category of compression efficiency is one of the most important focus areas and is where many opportunities for savings are found. This investigation focuses on the operating characteristics of the air compressors as well as the compression efficiency. One of the primary points of focus is the compressor control strategy. Primary compressed air storage can be vital to the effectiveness of a compressor control strategy; as a result, compressed air storage is incorporated into the investigation. The maintenance concerns and life of the compressors are investigated as well.
The category of compressed air conditioning is also an area where a significant savings opportunity can be found. This investigation centers on the operation of compressed air dryers, filters and aftercoolers. The major types of dryers operate in vastly different ways and produce compressed air with significantly different dew points. Management of these energy systems is very important to the overall operation of the compressed air system.
The category of compressed air use investigates all of the primary uses of compressed air throughout the facility. Because compressed air is the most expensive common utility in an industrial facility all compressed air demands are questioned. Each compressed air demand is identified as appropriate or inappropriate. Inappropriate compressed air demands are replaced with an appropriate energy source. Appropriate compressed air demands are targeted for demand reduction. This can be one of the most effective compressed air system management tools. The operating costs of the compressed air users are compared to alternatives and the more cost effective utility is identified. The investigation incorporates implementation costs.
Compressed air leak investigations not only seek to identify compressed air leaks in the system but will also recommend a management plan to minimize compressed air leaks. Leaks result in significant increased operating and maintenance costs as well as increased infrastructure expenditures.
Compressed air investigations require a system-wide approach. Each component in the system influences the operation of most of the other equipment. As a result, a compressed air assessment incorporates comprehensive system influences.
Additionally, during the assessment best practices are identified and emphasized. A best practice is defined as an activity that exhibits the fundamental principles of energy management. A best practice must also be widely applicable and based in sound, fundamental principles. Identification and emphasis of best practices serves as an excellent vehicle for communicating successful energy management practices.