Compressed air fail: Draining profits

A food products company suffered a failure of one of their compressors that caused production outages due to low pressure. They were forced to rent a portable compressor and place it outside to return the production to normal. This portable compressor consumed about $10,000 per month in rental and fuel costs.

Around the same time, a compressed air auditor did a system assessment of the facility. The auditor discovered that the plant powerhouse had timer drains that were blowing excessively. A manual drain had been opened at the portable compressor that was draining more than 50 cfm constantly, even though the portable compressor was very lightly loaded.

A check with the customer discovered that the timer drains were all set for long draining times—due to moisture problems experienced during a hot summer period. The blowdown time was further increased when the portable was installed, as it seemed the moisture problems got worse. At the same time, the airless drain in their refrigerated dryer failed and was replaced with on open drain blasting full pressure through a 3/8 in hose.

A leakage test determined if all the drains were set to normal and/or replaced with airless drains, the flow demand would be reduced significantly. Further, a leakage test was done and it found if some of the leaks in the plant were repaired, the air loading would decrease enough so the portable could be turned off. This plant was draining their profits away and they didn’t even know it. Further repairs returned things to normal, with one less compressor.

By Ron Marshall for the Compressed Air Challenge

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