Why a compressed air audit is worth the energy

It’s a commonly known industrial fact – between 10-15 per cent of
industrial electricity is used to generate compressed air. And yet,
compressed air is an inefficient form of energy – 90 per cent of the
input energy used is discharged as waste heat. This is not only costly
from a sustainability standpoint; wasting energy means wasting money.
This is why both government and industry bodies recommend that
businesses take measures to improve the efficiency of their compressed
air systems. The first step is to organise an audit.

An audit can
identify factors that are causing inefficiencies in an air compressor
system such as leaks, poor controls, and pressure settings. However, not
all audit systems are designed equally. CAPS Australia expert and
branch manager for South Australia, Kevin Jones, said that unlike other
audit systems that typically offer a simple compressor efficiency
analysis, CAPS audits are designed from the ground up to be a
comprehensive system analysis tool that considers a broad range of
variables beyond the compressor.

These variables may include the
demand profile, usage and potential misuse, pipework design, plant room
and ancillary equipment selection and design, sources of leakage, and
storage.

“CAPS invested in the development of this air audit
system because we saw a need to help our customers solve efficiency and
performance as well as help them save money. We consider these savings
to be low-hanging fruit – as in they are easily achieved and the
benefits are relatively swift,” he explained.

The audits CAPS
provide are characteristically simple and low in cost. Moreover,
energy-saving audits are scalable. Regardless of an organisation’s size,
the percentage of savings after an audit will generally justify both
the audit and the costs of a system upgrade.

“It would be a rare
event if an audit didn’t find opportunities to improve efficiency,” said
Jones. “For example, an automotive supplier in South Australia
undertook an audit and a compressor upgrade through CAPS—they started
seeing energy savings of 40 per cent after installing the upgraded
compressor and will see a return on their investment in less than 2
years. These type of savings depend on the scope of the site. For
instance, a large mining site – well, that would require a more complex
and longer audit but the cost savings would likely be in the hundreds of
thousands.”

CAPS usually run an audit over seven days at a site.
Their process starts with getting an understanding of a customer’s
requirements and operations. “We first discuss with the customer what
they want to achieve – is it to simply cut costs or get the best option
moving forward? This will drive how we conduct the audit. Then we will
set up out at the site but in a way that is not intrusive, so we won’t
disrupt production or interfere with their usual activity,” Jones
explained.

“After one week of auditing (data logging) the
information is uploaded to the CAPS software and reviewed. This is where
we uncover the facts on the sites compressed air operation, and can
determine efficiency gains resulting in energy savings.”

CAPS
provide both supply side audits and demand side or leak audits – the
latter uses ultrasonic technology to determine air leakage.

Jones
further detailed another case study where CAPS had provided an audit and
recommendations to an abattoir in Queensland, Kilcoy Pastoral.

The
[management] at Kilcoy were looking to upgrade their compressed air
system, so we logged and analysed the information, made some project
recommendations and supplied a new air compressor system,” Jones
explained. “We also did a verification air audit of the new equipment to
prove that we had provided the results we had [originally]
anticipated.”

The client was very happy with the result. Not only
did they pay back their capital costs within two years; they are now
experiencing electricity savings of $15,000 every month.

A CAPS compressed air audit will uncover the facts that allow good business decisions to be made.

“This
is why an audit is recommended for any business who wants to improve
their energy use and costs – if your system hasn’t been measured, how
will you know how much you will save?” Jones asked.

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