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Technology, Service, Parts & Maintenance

Guidelines for Designing a Compressed Air System


The following is an excerpt from the article Guidelines for Designing a Compressed Air System by Deepak Vetal, product marketing manager for oil-free screw and centrifugal compressors at Atlas Copco. The full version can be read online. 

There are various factors to consider when designing a compressed air system that help to improve the reliability and efficiency of compressors and ancillary equipment, reduce leakage and pressure drops, and minimize the compressor system’s lifecycle cost. This article provides guidance on several considerations that impact a compressed air system.

Ambient conditions 

Compressor performance can vary based on ambient conditions. It is important to know the site elevation, ambient temperatures, relative humidity (RH) and airborne dust load prior to choosing a compressor system. Ambient air can also contain aggressive gases, such as hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S) or ammonia (NH 3), which require a suitable filtration system to protect compressed air equipment. Having this information on hand can help compressed air experts make a more informed decision when it comes to designing the best solution for a plant’s needs.

Centralized versus decentralized

Centralized and decentralized compressor systems each have their own advantages. A decentralized system is installed when compressed air is needed for applications where the compressor system must be located near the application, such as air blast for high-voltage electric breakers, pneumatic conveying of materials, pneumatic operation of forging tools and other applications that demand the air compressor be in close proximity.

In most other cases, a centralized system is preferred due to its added energy efficiency and decreased maintenance costs. A centralized system uses larger, but fewer, compressor units, as its air-intake filtration, ventilation requirements, cooling-water treatment, air cooling and drying are all located in the same area. Users can save time on labor and routine maintenance since centralized systems are well-suited for remote master control, load sharing and sequencing operations.

Additional guidelines to consider when designing a compressed air system include:

  • Sizing and selection
  • Compression principles
  • Flow and pressure units
  • Receiver tank
  • Air dryer and filtration selection
  • Compressor room ventilation
  • Cooling water
  • Compressed air piping network
  • Monitoring and control

Learn more about these guidelines when you read the full article on Chemical Engineering’s website, and don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more posts just like this!

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