By Ron Marshall
One key recommendation of the Compressed Air Challenge’s Fundamentals of Compressed Air Systems training is to take the systems approach. Improving a compressed air system is much more than just looking at just replacing an air compressor. Sometimes system problems are caused by a variety of things. When looking at system improvement measures, it is best to start at the end uses and work your way back to the compressor.
Consider a food processing company that was running into pressure problems. They had started looking at purchasing an additional air compressor to increase their capacity. But before they did anything, they called in an expert compressed air auditor to give his opinion.
The auditor did a thorough analysis of their plant using the systems approach and found that roughly 14 dust collectors in the facility had been adjusted, so the reverse cleaning pulses were firing at excessive frequency and duration. Instead of one pulse of one-tenth of a second firing every 30 seconds, for example, some blast nozzles were firing for one half second every 10 seconds, increasing the compressed air demand by a factor of 15. This additional loading was causing the air system to be overloaded, increasing the pressure loss in the distribution piping, and causing an extra compressor to run.
But the system desiccant air dryer was only rated for the capacity of one compressor; the additional compressor operation overloaded the dryer and caused the desiccant to fluidize, which created desiccant dust as the internal beads rubbed together. This dust overloaded the dryer outlet particulate filter and quickly plugged it up, causing a huge pressure loss.
We can see the benefits of taking the systems approach and looking at the complete system. It turned out the company did not need a new compressor, nor did they need a desiccant dryer, which consumed a significant portion of the compressor output.
Adjustments to the dust collectors and replacement of the dryer with an efficient cycling refrigerated unit reduced the compressed air loading so much that only one compressor was now required. The resulting load reduction and new component installation eliminated their low pressure problems and reduced system operating costs by about 40%.
When you look at improving your compressed air system take the systems approach!
More information about the highly rated Compressed Air Challenge Fundamentals training where you can learn about the systems approach can be found at these links: