Leaks are notorious for causing major operating losses including energy wastage in an industrial compressed air system. Here are some sustainable actions that can be taken to address them…
The leaks in the air compressors often tend to get ignored, but they can be a considerable source of energy wastage in an industrial compressed air system. A typical manufacturing facility or a plant (not properly serviced on time) will likely have a leak rate close to 20 percent of total compressed air production capacity. As per our energy managers, a 1 mm hole can lead to leakage of 3 cfm which may cost you approximately `22,000 in a year. Leaks can also lead to various other operating losses as they cause a drop in the overall system pressure, which can make air tools function less efficiently, adversely affecting production.
The method of leak quantification can help in formulating a strategy to take a sustainable action on the compressed air leaks. It will also help in prioritizing the actions on the leaks based on the locations and repair them effectively in the compressor room. This way, additionally, a reasonable amount of energy can be saved with lower energy consumption and by optimizing the air compressor.
Acceptable leak percentage
Theoretically, there should be zero percent compressed air leakages in a manufacturing plant. However, as there are considerable constraints, it is not possible to eliminate 100 percent leakages from the compressed air site. Hence, efforts are made to have the lowest percentage of leaks in the plant. As a thumb rule, the energy experts always recommend having compressed air leakages less than 5 percent in a manufacturing plant.
If not-so-ideal scenario
If the quantified air leaks are between 5 and 10 percent then it is advisable to perform a leak detection test with an air audit expert. If the quantified leaks are more than 10 percent then it should be fixed on high priority as they are draining the resources. Here, the recommendation is to take the help of air audit experts who will audit the compressed air system and provide the right solution to the issues.
However, if there are budget and time constraints, the following ways must be resorted to for addressing the compressor air leaks in-house for sustainable energy savings:
• Create and observe leak repair programs like ‘Leak detection week’ once in six months with the plant employees, wherein one hour each day for 7 days could be dedicated collectively to identify and repair the leaks;
• Make people aware of the cost of leaks so that there could be a collective consciousness towards the problem.
As there are considerable constraints, it is not possible to eliminate 100 percent leakages
from the compressed air site. As a thumb rule, the energy experts always recommend
having compressed air leakages less than 5 percent in a manufacturing plant.
Such engagements will not only help to repair and reduce leaks, but this will convert into a commitment to energy savings within the plant community.
However, in-house solutions work best in small and easy to fix leakages and with short-term results. Bigger fixes demand for the expertise offered by the air audit experts, which not only takes care of the problem on a long-term basis, but also offers long-term energy savings.
Let the expert take over
Leaks are simple to attend till the time they are visible and can be fixed internally. However, in a running factory environment, where there is a lot of movement and often commotion, it often becomes a challenge in detecting the leak of gases and fix them. Further, it is not possible to shut down the plant every time for the leak detection test.
Therefore, it is advised to call an air audit expert who will have the precise advanced tools for leak detection like acoustic sound image, which helps to accurately detect the air leak with leak value and also the location of it. The root cause analysis of the leaks will help in repairing them permanently without shutting down the network that has technological demands.
The other benefits of conducting compressed air audit under an expert guidance are:
• Clear report, which can also be used as a guide to compressed air audits;
• Energy consultants provide independent advice tailored to one’s need based on the insights and innovations in air compression technology;
• Sophisticated devices like ultrasonic leak detector and photochromatic leak detector allow uninterrupted work at a plant;
• Air audit experts provide reliable, effective and sustainable energy-efficient solutions.
Atlas Copco India Pvt Ltd
Source: Atlas Copco India Pvt Ltd