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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Improving compressed air system performance: A sourcebook for industry

  • Author(s): Mckane, Aimee T.
  • et al.

Compressed air is used widely throughout industry and is often considered the "fourth utility" at many facilities. Almost every industrial plant, from a small machine shop to an immense pulp and paper mill, has some type of compressed air system. In many cases, the compressed air system is so vital that the facility cannot operate without it. Plant air compressor systems can vary in size from a small unit of 5 horsepower (hp) to huge systems with more than 50,000 hp. In many industrial facilities, compressed air systems use electricity less efficiently than any other system. Inefficiencies in compressed air systems can therefore be significant. Energy savings from system improvements can range from 20 to 50 percent or more of electricity consumption. For many facilities this is equivalent to thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential annual savings, depending on use. A properly managed compressed air system can save energy, reduce maintenance, decrease downtime, increase production throughput, and improve product quality. This sourcebook is designed to provide compressed air system users with a reference that outlines opportunities for system performance improvements. It is not intended to be a comprehensive technical text on improving compressed air systems, but rather a document that makes compressed air system users aware of the performance improvement potential, details some of the significant opportunities, and directs users to additional sources of assistance.

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