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The huge compressed air savings potential

Compressed air pressure

Energy savings are getting more and more a hot topic. There are worldwide initiatives, directives and agreements to stop climate change and limit the overall CO2 emissions. Consumers are becoming critical and demand products that are produced in a sustainable way. Furthermore, many production plants are becoming more aware of the huge cost reductions involved with energy savings. So, factories are looking to reduce steam, natural gas and electrical consumption by installing e.g. solar panels, investing in wind farms, turning to LED lighting and switching to heat recovery.

Don’t overlook compressed air!

Unfortunately, there is one large savings opportunity that is often overlooked and that is compressed air! Even today, we see in the workplace that compressed is considered as “free”! This could not be any further away from the truth as it is one of the most expensive utilities. Also, in many plants, production output is still prioritized above reducing compressed air consumption. While not monitoring your compressed air system can even result in production stops as a result of e.g. broken machines.

Facts about energy costs

To open your eyes, we have gathered here below a few facts about the costs of compressed air and the savings potential.

  • Independent research in the US, Australia and Europe (1), has shown that 4 to 5% of the global electricity consumption is taken up by compressed air. This has one of the largest industrial savings potentials of 233 TWh.
    Annual total compressed air savings worldwide
  • More than 75% of the total costs of ownership of a compressor is taken up by energy costs. The other 25% are for buying the compressor and maintenance. So rather investing all your time in selecting the most affordable or even the most efficient machine on the market, put all your efforts in selecting the right compressor for your specific compressed air usage. If the most efficient compressor in the world is too large for your application or not controlled properly, this will cost you more over time.
  • Did you know that compressed air is the 3rd or 4th utility within most production companies?
  • Compressed air takes up 10 to 30% of the electrical bill of an average industrial company?
  • Compressed air is 8 to 10 times more expensive than electricity. Why? 85% Of the energy generated by a compressor comprises of heat. Only 15% is air. Although there are some nice heat recovery projects (for example heating of buildings), in many cases, the heat cannot be re-used properly.
  • Compressed is even more expensive when you consider its actual usage in the factory. Studies have shown that only 50% of compressed air is used for production, the other 50% involves leakages, artificial demand and inappropriate use.
    Compressed air usage in manufacturing

Why use compressed air?

So ok, why use compressed air at all then? Well in many cases it is still a necessary evil, e.g. for bottle-blowing machines in glass manufacturing plants, for painting of car bodies or for safety reasons in specific ATEX zones. However, there are still many ways to reduce compressed air usage significantly. Investing in flow meters, power meters and monitoring software can reveal where you can reduce consumption and optimize. Therefore, this investment will payback easily.

References

Others went before you and got great savings! Here is a small selection:

Green initiatives at large corporations
VPInstruments compressed air flow meters at Bolletje food factory

The Dutch cooky manufacturer reduced compressed air costs by 25% with their compressed air savings project, that included VPVision.

CSI California Steel Industries investing in compressed air savings

>300K/USD savings annually by permanently monitoring their compressed air with VPVision and flow, power and pressure sensors in their 6 compressor rooms.

VPVision compressed air monitoring system at Kikkoman

ROI of VPVision with 20 flow meters was only <1 year.

Join your peers today!

So, join your peers today and don’t wait any longer: start with your compressed air savings today! How? Click here to go to our article with savings tips for compressed air.

A first tip: just walk around your factory today and look for those bad practices immediately. For instance, open blows to move product/powder, cleaning off machines with homemade air guns and noisy workplaces are a great indicator for large leakages.

(1) Radgen, Peter. (2001). Compressed air systems in the European Union.