Perspectives: Energy Saver

Optimize Compressed Air System Controls

Evaluate system design, load profile and plant demand to determine your control strategy.

By Riyaz Papar, Energy Columnist
Jul 18, 2016

Process plants use compressed air for several different purposes including conveying, process controls and actuators, process gas compressing, etc. Interestingly, compressed air is probably the most expensive utility stream in the industry on a per unit basis. In addition, it is the most misused, mismanaged and unaccounted (wasted) utility from an overall usage perspective. So, I compared the energy used in pumping systems (see, “Pump Out Energy Inefficiencies[sitetree_link,id=11130]”) versus compressed air and was very surprised at the results. The chemicals sector (NAICS 325) uses a slightly higher amount of energy in producing compressed air (160 TBtu/yr) than pumping systems (151 TBtu/yr). More importantly, though, the compressed air system energy efficiency is only 11%, which means 89% of the energy supplied is wasted. No wonder compressed air is the most expensive utility in a plant!

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