Plant & Works Engineering

Responsibility for compressed air

Published:  21 July, 2007

If you have responsibility for compressed air then you need to produce it safely, reliably and at least cost.  One step to achieving all three is to look at the two major sources of avoidable waste in compressed air systems:

  • Leaks
  • Over-pressurisation

Both of these compromise reliability of compressed air processes and increase costs in terms of product defects, re-work and equipment service life.  BCAS has gained Carbon Trust Networks funding to address these two energy efficiency issues and recruit 10 participant sites as case studies.

Leaks are well known as a source of waste.  The project will concentrate not only on leak detection, but the next phase - implementing a leak management programme and repairing the leaks.  This is what actually saves the energy and money. 

Over-pressurisation is usually indicative of trying to lessen the effect of fluctuating air pressure which causes production stoppages and variable product quality.  The over-pressurisation cost is perceived to be minimal compared to downtime costs. However a 1 bar increase in air pressure can raise generation costs by 6- 8%, so ideally you want to be able to reduce the fluctuations and hence reduce the pressure without risking reliability of the air supply.  As part of the Carbon Trust project the use of a flow controller (in combination with a suitably sized air receiver) will be trialled at selected sites.  This technology effectively separates supply from demand and eliminates fluctuations thus saving energy, by typically allowing a pressure reduction of up to 2 bar.

If you have an installed capacity of more than 200kW and would like to participate in either the leak management or flow pressure control projects, then please visit our dedicated project website:   for more details and criteria.