Most production facilities rely on compressed air and gas to complete many tasks throughout the facility. The compressed air system design is considered when the facility is first built and often includes multiple electrically powered compressors. The energy consumed by the compressors is usually the largest cost of energy in the facility. The compressors must pressurize a vast network of hoses, connectors, regulators, and valves over throughout the building to ensure critical equipment is properly pressurized.
With so many potential leak points, it’s common to have a high percentage of leaks and therefore large waste in energy. As those leaks increase costly measures are taken to keep things running. Whether that’s pumping more compressed air through the system, adding compressors to keep level amounts, or compensating on other ways, it can lower your plant’s energy efficiency and increase energy intensity.
Energy efficiency goes up, but energy intensity goes down
Instead, what you want to see is your energy efficiency across the plant increasing, and the energy intensity decreasing. When these align, they can lead to cost savings.
Energy efficiency is using the energy you have more wisely. An energy-efficiency facility can use less energy to produce the same amount of goods.
Energy intensity is the amount of energy it takes to produce that amount of goods; energy needed per product. Or, the amount of energy used to produce a specified service. Using less energy results in a lower energy intensity.
Energy intensity vs energy efficiency
Energy intensity and energy efficiency are inversely related. As energy efficiency increases, there is less energy wasted on each product. This would result in energy intensity going down and a lower energy needed per product resulting in energy and cost savings. Improvements in efficiency can lead to the declines you want to see in energy intensity.
Conducting energy assessments, or an audit of your current energy use, at the micro level tells you what your facility’s energy intensity is as well as highlights some efficiencies you can employ to decrease that intensity. By running these evaluations, companies can more easily visualize where they’re losing money from energy loss or compressed air leaks.
How to evaluate energy consumption at the micro level
- Conduct a walkthrough of the facility, defining the task you want to assess
- Collect energy bills to gather available data
- Use a power quality logger to benchmark energy consumption
- Use a leak detector to find air leaks
- Analyze your energy use patterns to look for where you’re using the most energy
Finally, after you’ve gathered the information in the steps above, you need to analyze it. Compare how much energy should be required to accomplish the task you’re assessing and how much energy is actually being used. The difference between the two is an uncovered savings opportunity.
Energy management tools
Using an energy logger in step three, like the 1760 Power Quality Logger, can give you a snapshot of and provide insight into energy consumption rates. This step helps you benchmark where your facility is starting out. If a benchmark exists, then when leaks are fixed the resulting savings is simple to calculate.
If you’ve been using a power logger as part of your regular preventive maintenance routine, you can also take a look at the past metrics pulled for additional insight and baseline information.
Using a leak detector in step four, like the Fluke ii900 Industrial Acoustic Imager, find leaks in compressed air or gas systems around the facility. According to the DOE, leaks are a significant source of wasted energy in a compressed air system, in many cases, wasting as much as 30% of a compressor’s output. That’s wasted air or gas that you not only have to pay for, but often leads to increased compensation at the beginning of the line, and unseen damage to your system–leading to unplanned down time or costly repairs.
If you can find and repair the highest priority leaks, you can often see a quick impact on your bottom line.
As part of the Better Plants Program, the DOE will loan participating companies instruments they can use to gauge their pre- and post-program energy management levels. One tool included in the program is the Fluke ii900 Industrial Acoustic Imager, which can help evaluate energy consumption levels.
Any business that uses a compressed air system can benefit from conducting energy consumption evaluations to use energy more wisely around their plant. It’s the size of the leaks you’re able to find and repair that will make the biggest difference in your business’ energy management. Compressed air systems were installed to handle some of the most demanding pressure and keep your processes running, they deserve to be properly maintained.