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Case study: Compressed Air System – Replacement Project

April 26, 2021
Case study: Compressed Air System – Replacement Project

by Jeff Connally, PPL Technical Solutions Engineer

The Project

A large campus-like research and development facility in the North West of the UK last year suffered a significant breakdown on an older 55Kw compressor that had been in service for many years.  The compressor was located in a dedicated compressor room along with a smaller 45Kw compressor that was older still, and generally only used as a backup. 

The air generated was then fed though underground pipework to several buildings on the research campus requiring compressed air.  However, the underground pipework was in poor condition and as a result, the older equipment was feeding an extraordinary loss of air!

Diagram 1

Conceptual Diagram of Previous ‘Centralised’ Compressed Air System

Understanding Requirements

The customer approached us for a better solution.  Rather than simply overhauling the old 55Kw unit, or replacing it with a current model, we took the opportunity to do a more in-depth analysis of the actual air usage for each building.

This analysis revealed that only four buildings on the campus required low-pressure compressed air.  After working with the production department managers within each building to ascertain the duty cycle and volume of air required by the production processes, we were able to arrive at a very good estimate of the air needed within each building.

The Solution

The understanding of the air requirement then drove the solution to propose a single, smaller compressor in each building requiring air, based upon the demand of each department. 

This meant that the customer would no longer require a large, centralised air compressor running continuously (and quite frankly, feeding excessive air leakage), and instead a smaller distributed system was designed.  Internally, this also greatly simplified the process of allocating the costs of the compressed air across each of the four cost centres.

But what about a backup or redundancy?  Under normal usage, each building will be isolated from the others, but in the event of a planned maintenance, a valve can be opened to allow for one building to share air with another for a short period.

Diagram 2

Conceptual Diagram of New ‘Distributed’ Compressed Air System

Project Result

As a result of this project, the overall Energy and Maintenance costs of the compressed air system for this customer were greatly reduced.  Cost savings estimates of the new proposed ‘distributed’ system vs the older ‘centralised’ system previous installation are as follows:

Energy Cost Comparison:

Old System – Total Estimated Energy Costs £41,250 per year!

New System Total Estimated Energy Costs = £7,040 per year!

Energy Cost Savings (£41,250 – £7,040 = £34,210 Energy Savings, per year!

Maintenance Cost Comparison:

Maintenance Cost Savings per year ended up being £690 in Saved Maintenance Costs, but now include a 7-Year Manufacturers Warranty, covering breakdowns as well!

Total Savings (Energy & Maintenance) as result of the project:
£34,900 per year.

Conclusion

As a result of this project, the customer has now realised substantial cost savings and has a much-enhanced service and extended warranty plan in place. 

We have decades of compressed air experience and resources we can deploy – including a full range of diagnostic equipment to ascertain air usage. If you’ve got plans to expand production or engage in a technology refresh of older equipment, your facility is adapting to new requirements, or you are simply looking for ways to reduce your costs of compressed air, then please give us a call today on 0151 546 6689.

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