Leaks In Compressed Air Systems Cost Companies A Lot Of Money

An absolutely tight compressed air network is more of a myth than reality, even with the greatest effort. Even if a little escaping air doesn't seem dramatic at first, in the long run it can quickly become expensive. The point is: compressed air is not free.

How much leakage a company wants to allow and what is proportionate in terms of regular efforts to seal it in order to realise continuous savings becomes a crucial question. For larger compressed air networks, it is assumed that five to fifteen percent is still acceptable; anything above that should be urgently looked at more closely and renewed or significantly improved. For compressors with a poor energy balance, extensive treatment technology for the compressed air produced - and taking maintenance costs into account – a price of 3 to 4 cents and more per cubic metre of compressed air is not unusual.

Of course, quite a few operators of compressed air systems know about this and are conscious of the issue and well aware of the costs - and simply switch off the compressors in the evening or at the weekend. Problem: In the process the pressurised air tanks lose the expensively generated compressed air up to atmospheric pressure and have to be refilled daily to operating pressure. A solution, for example, with pressure-retaining valves installed for this purpose, would be relatively simple and also usually inexpensive to implement, writes Dirk Gros of Flex-Air in the trade journal 'MM MaschinenMarkt'.

Awareness Of Costs Is The Most Important Step

Even though it may sound trivial to immediately remedy directly audible leaks, this often assures the greatest savings potential. However, if the operator is not a large consumer in terms of compressed air demand, where a permanent search for leakage is financially worthwhile, medium-sized companies quickly succumb. After all, daily work has to be done without spending the whole day looking for leaks, Gros writes in his article.

In the company, therefore, a fundamental understanding must be developed that compressed air is expensive, not free. Just as most employees are aware of the electricity costs in their own homes. Employee motivation, communication and many other aspects are therefore linked to the elimination of leakage.

Besides, in times of climate change and 'Energiewende', it is not just a matter of buying a machine that is as cheap as possible, but a machine that has, for example, a volumetric flow meter for compressed air installed and thus reports unusually high consumption.

This makes it evident that each company must first determine the costs of its leakage individually. The second step would then be to define the company's own permissible leakage rate and the tolerable amount of work required to eliminate it. Once this has been achieved, the path to saving energy and money is not far away.

Optimised Filtration For More Productivity And Safety In Fuel Desulphurisation

Established plants for the desulphurisation of fuels by filtration with amine are unfortunately often outdated and neglected, but today filtration can be implemented much more efficiently. Filtration technologies actually play an important role in the performance of amine plants and have evolved significantly since their development and introduction into production. These improvements have an impact on both maintenance and reliability. But more importantly, they can provide a cost-effective route to operator safety while significantly reducing environmental impact.

All this, plus an ever-increasing number of processes, makes amine plants an increasingly important element in fuel production and the associated production of sour gas. ‘Given their importance, it would be logical for amine plants to be at the top of any list of technical upgrades, but we are far from that today. The truth is that most plants currently in operation are older and often neglected, with outdated technologies and mediocre efficiency,’ writes Cyril Coutures (Eaton Corporation) in the October issue of Chemie Technik.

Inadequate filtration is the most obvious cause of many maintenance problems. Perhaps the most common symptom is blockage of the activated carbon filter, usually indicated by an increase in differential pressure in the filter due to excessive contamination. In almost all cases, the cause is poor performance of the upstream filter. To extend run times and reduce maintenance costs and associated downtime, low-efficiency filter media is used, according to Cyril Coutures' analysis.

Improving Efficiency Through Modern Technology

The impact of inappropriate filtration technology that is most likely overlooked is that on the heat exchanger. Because the pipe that transports rich amine is often completely unprotected, contaminants collect in the heat exchanger's housing and pipes – resulting in unplanned maintenance to clean these elements.

With today's technologies, such problems can be completely avoided. The typical configuration used in virtually every plant offers some opportunities for improvement in terms of efficiency, environmental impact and, more importantly, operator safety. The use of filtration technology in the form of a backwash filter with automatic self-cleaning significantly optimises the points described.

During operation, contaminants accumulate on the outside of the filter media, forming a particle cake that gradually increases the differential pressure in the filter. Once the differential pressure reaches a preset value, the flow through the filter is reversed to remove and flush out the dirt particle cake. The advantage for operator safety is obvious. If a filter does not need to be opened, operators do not need to be in a hazardous environment and the likelihood of accidents is minimal.

The second advantage of a self-cleaning backwash filter is an economic one. There are no filter cartridges or filter bags to replace and dispose of – and all the associated costs are simply eliminated. The same applies to the costs of the associated downtime and the labour involved in changing them.

In this way not only can operating costs be reduced and the environmental impact minimised, but the operating time of the amine plant can also be extended.

Important Occupational Safety In The Construction Of Chemical Plants: Extraction Of Hazardous Substances

To ensure that chemical materials can be transported and stored in the best possible way, it is of elementary importance that pipes and containers are highly leak-proof. These containers, which are used in large quantities in the chemical industry, are often assembled on site, which can produce substances that are harmful to health. Consequently, the right extraction technology is of great importance for occupational safety reasons.

The manufacture of apparatus, containers or pipelines also requires precise processing of elements made of structural steels, stainless steel and other materials. But it is precisely in these manufacturing processes that welding creates health hazards for the employees involved. 

Manfred Könning, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Kemper, writes in the trade journal "Chemie-Technik“ that welding fumes and cutting dust consist to a large extent of so-called alveolar particles that can penetrate into the alveoli. For example, iron and aluminium oxides, nitrogen oxides, ozone or chromium compounds and nickel oxides are released during welding. Depending on their characteristics, they have a lung-damaging, toxic or, as in the case of chromium(VI) or nickel, even carcinogenic effect.

This topic also includes the clear realisation that recently lowered limit values for specific substances and alveolar dusts, new assessment criteria for carcinogenic substances and findings from occupational safety and health practice have brought the topic increasingly into focus. In order to establish an order of priority for protective measures in practice, occupational safety and health are based on the so-called 'STOP principle'. This stands for

- Substitution,

- Technical,

- Organisational Measures, and

- Personal protective equipment.

Although switching to alternative processes or materials is a priority, it is sometimes difficult or impossible to implement this in terms of feasibility and cost-effectiveness. A key role for effective occupational safety and compliance with limit values is taken by extraction equipment. Welding fumes or cutting dust should be collected as directly as possible at the point of origin and extracted away from the welder (spot extraction). Room ventilation systems, on the other hand, are not permissible as the sole protective measure and should only be used as a supplementary measure.

Mobile Extraction For Plant Construction

In addition to burner-integrated extraction, mobile extraction units that collect hazardous substances via an extraction nozzle or funnel or an extraction arm with an extraction bonnet are also suitable for chemical plant construction. The most important thing here is easy handling for the welder. Welders themselves should also equip themselves with appropriate respirators or ventilated helmets as part of their personal safety at work.

In addition to the use of extraction technology, organisational measures are becoming increasingly important. In addition to extraction technology, welding and cutting work areas should ideally be spatially separated from other operating units. This prevents hazardous substances from spreading throughout the production process in the first place. This spatial separation of processes for processing low-alloy and high-alloy steels is an effective occupational safety measure on account of the different emission classes.

Modern technical occupational safety thus includes several elements altogether: suitable point extraction through burner-integrated extraction or mobile extraction units. In addition, room ventilation systems should also be used. macos/deepLFree.translatedWithDeepL.text

Environmentally Friendly Corrosion Protection For Machines: Good Cooling Water Quality Without Chemicals

For good production results and low service costs, a permanently high water quality is required. Users must ensure that their machines do not allow bacteria to form in their circuits, which are disturbed by biofilms, for example – or where corrosion often gnaws at steel moulds. Corrosive or bacterially contaminated cooling water damages machines and plants, especially in plastics processing companies.

Chemicals are often used to regulate the pH value and biocides to prevent the formation of biofilms to prevent or at least reduce corrosion in the plants. However, the use of these agents is also maintenance- and cost-intensive. A chemical-free solution is therefore ideal for maintaining the quality of the cooling water, which is not only associated with lower costs but also protects the environment.

A typical example is companies that use injection moulding systems, writes Christian Barth, Country Manager at Enwa AS in Hennef in the trade journal 'Plastverarbeiter'. There, he says, cooling circuits are used in which oxygen and CO2 always penetrate the water and reduce the pH value. The treatment of the tools can also subsequently deteriorate an initially good water quality in the cooling circuit. This happens when passivation is carried out with phosphoric acid and the rest of the highly concentrated acid is not properly rinsed out of the mould before the next use. When the mould is put into operation, this residue is then returned to the large circuit and harm  the water quality, but in practice, the situation is usually different for users of chemicals.

If chemical corrosion protection agents are added to the system to counteract corrosion, it is not uncommon for the biology in the storage tank to virtually explode. As a result, biocides are necessary to remove the bacteria – a vicious circle, so to speak.

A Solution Without Chemicals For Clean System Water In Cooling Circuits.

The consistent use of minerals means that no food source for bacteria can be created in the first place. The permanently high pH value, once set, in combination with the minerals, represents an effective bacterial barrier.

The corrosion protection is achieved by the adjusted pH value, which forms a stable protective layer on the base metals. The pH-value is self-regulating and enables maintenance intervals of twelve months for the operator.

The expert recommends the use of a pressurised, closed system for a new system to be planned. This would not automatically solve all the challenges of open systems, but the boundary conditions would be easier to control. However, this water is not bacteria-free - just as drinking water cannot be. And, corrosion often remains an issue, as many of the systems are made of steel.