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Technology, Air Treatment

The Shift Toward Increased Energy Efficiency in the Chemical Industry

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Compressed air experts agree that there are a number of ways industrial plants can improve energy efficiency through their use of compressed air. However, many plants often ignore inefficient uses of compressed air until problems arise.

In Chemical Processing’s recent article "Upgrade Compressed Air Systems" by Seán Ottewell, Séan speaks with experts in the field to look at ways plants can improve overall operating efficiencies.

Questions to ask before purchasing an air compressor system

Improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon footprint are major drivers in the chemical industry’s desire to use more efficient compressor technology, commented one of the compressed air experts. When considering a compressor system, there are three important questions to ask yourself: 

  1. How do you select the most efficient compressor for a given system?
  2. What downstream equipment is involved in that system?
  3. How do you optimize the whole system over the lifetime of the compressor and its associated equipment?

Steps for improving energy efficiency 

Plants can save significant amounts of energy by understanding each process’s requirement and the proper equipment needed to meet varying demands. Compressed air experts recommend taking these steps to improve energy efficiency:

  1. Conduct an air audit to establish key performance parameters of your compressed air system and its associated equipment.
  2. Work with a compressed expert to determine the best technology for your specific plant processes.

Technology trends in the chemical industry

“The chemical industry is showing greater interest in oil-free compressors,” says Deepak Vetal, product marketing manager at Atlas Copco. Here are three reasons why:

  • Better air quality from oil-free compressors means there’s less of a need for expensive filtration systems.
  • The chemical industry is generally moving away from heatless dryers.
  • The availability of modern controllers can optimize the entire compressed air system. 

Users who switch to oil-free compressors can save an average of 20 to 25 percent on energy consumption, and with heatless dryers, plants can have a 15 to 20 percent purge loss that can be saved by using no-loss heat of compressor dryers. 

To stay ahead of industry demands, Atlas Copco has been developing new technology to detect pressure changes and leaks within compressed air systems. These innovative designs, such as the ZR and ZT range of oil-free compressors, are available as Full Feature packages with integrated dryers and VSD.

Interested in learning more? Click on the Chemical Processing article to see how plants can take advantage of opportunities to save on energy.

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