Explore the hidden goldmine in your plant

Production companies leave financial reserves unused in their bank account, and at miserably low interest rates, while they could realize returns of a few 100 percent with part of this money. How? by permanent monitoring of compressed air and other utilties, combined with a well implemented energy management program.

Succesful energy managmement begins with identifying your “energy waste” top 3. Let us help you a little bit here and put compressed air on 1. Your next step: The implementation of a permanent monitoring system. This monitoring system will detect compressed air losses which in turn enables you to save  considerable on energy use.

It turns out that in many companies the cost of generating compressed air can be structurally reduced. Even better, when we look at real life, it can be as much as 20 to 50%. An ROI on the monitoring equipment can be 3..6 months, so it is a no-brainer. You might think: “Yeah sure, but it is all so complicated to install and we need to hire consultants”. This is in fact not the case. With a modern energy management software platform and a couple of sensors you can allready get a pretty good idea about your savings potential.

It is not only financially interesting to take a critical look at their compressed air system, but it also fits in very well with the European obligation to structurally save on energy usage in the upcoming years. From June 5, 2014 the European Energy Efficiency Directive has gone into force. This means that large energy customers are obligated to cut their energy usage by 1.5% annually. This measure is supposed to ensure that the ambitious energy saving plans for 2020 will actually be realized in Europe.

Compressed air is expensive, very expensive!

Compressed air is used in virtually every production company; to drive production machinery, to move product, to clean off packaging material and much more. But also in our normal lives we depend on compressed air. Compressed air is generated by taking in outdoor air through filters and compress this air to such an extent that it can be conducted under high pressure (usually five to eight bar) through a pipe system to machinery or your car tires. This process expensive. Even though a lot has improved in the area of compressors over the last decades, 75% of the consumed (electrical) energy is still lost to heat. Compressed air is one of the most expensive utilities. Because of all the losses, one kW of compressed air at the point of use is 10 to 20 times more expensive than 1kW of electricity. This is exactly the reason why compressed air is such a tremendous contender for successful energy savings.

Facts and figures

When you look at the cost of the total life cycle of a compressed air system, the energy costs account for as much as 75%. The other 25% are CAPEX and maintenance. Worldwide, approximately 5% of all electrical energy is converted into compressed air.

So how are you going to save? You will need a systematic approach. In this process, we distinguish three phases with compressed air systems, namely: permanent monitoring, leakage management and system optimization.

Monitoring and analysis

In order to save money, you have to determine the savings potential. With a modern energy management system focused on compressed air systems, the system can be mapped out and automatic reports are  generated automatically. In the reports, the efficiency, the total costs and the consumption per department is displayed. Now you know where, when and how much you can save.  And the results will be directly visible in the follow up reports. Of course staff awareness is key. The most succesful cases we have seen in the market did  set up an incentive program for all people involved. They created eneryg savings games, awarded people for their achievements.

For  monitoring and analysis of your compressed air system and other ulitities, VPInstruments offers VPVision, a real-time energy monitoring solution. VPVision helps you to get insight in your energy consumption. Via your own web browser, you can see the complete compressed air system in a simplified, comprehensive way; from compressor system to end users.

Leakage management

Leakage management goes further than detecting leaks and fixing them. It involves a systematic approach with a permanent monitoring system as the starting point. Companies can already realize a lot on energy by detecting and repairing leaks.

Many compressed air leaks can simply be heard (hissing sound), but there are also leaks which are more difficult to detect. For these leaks, permanent monitoring of air cosumption is the most efficient way to detect the total leakage rate. An ultrasound leak detector can be used to find the exact location of the leak. You can also hire specialized companies which can trace these compressed air leaks and repair them for you. But be aware of changes in baseload due to leak repairs: if the baseload on the compressor changes, it might influence their performance. Some compressors might start to blow off excess air, which is a very expensive form of energy waste. Therefore you should always take an holistic approach when implementing a leakage management program.

Optimization

A said before, the course of time, there can and will be important changes in compressed air usage. Leakage has decreased, production may fluctuate or the composition of the machinery inventory has been altered through expansion/modification. Thanks to permanent monitoring, changes are indicated in a timely manner, so you can react immediately. Think of changes in the number of compressors or the types of compressors. Or reduction of the working pressure, because high pressure machinery has been replaced, which likewise means a further energy saving. You can also consider heat recovery through the exploitation of compression heat for the central heating system. In collaboration with specialists, supplementary improvements can be carried out, resulting in an optimally cost effective compressed air system.

Return on Investment

In general, energy savings in compressed air are extremely profitable, with a short Return on Investment. As a case study, we shall discuss a modestly-sized compressed air system with two compressors, specifically: one compressor of 125 kW which runs for 7,000 hours per year and one compressor of 75 kW which runs for 5,000 hours per year. At 10 cents per kWh in electrical power costs (in most cases this is higher), the energy costs of this compressor station amount to 125,000 Euros per year. Thanks to the VPVision monitoring system, a large number of leaks was noticed and the maintenance schedule was adjusted.

  • Savings: 15% or € 18,750 per year.
  • Investment: a few new hose fittings and two hours repair time.

They also noticed that a number of production lines continuously used air during standstill periods. By turning off the machines during change of product (closing valve), another 5% was additionally saved, being  € 6,250. The total savings in this case study are thus € 25,000 per year. The Return on Investment for the monitoring system (approx. € 12,500 in this example) was less than six months!

On top of this, there was more than enough budget left to invest in repair materials. Considering that many compressed air systems are larger, 3 to 5 compressors, the savings in these situations are also considerably higher and the investment is even recouped in two to three months. So what are you waiting for? Start with energy monitorig in your factory today. And start with compressed air, the hidden goldmine within your plant.

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