Compressed air: inefficiencies can leak into profits

Compressed air: inefficiencies can leak into profits

A report has revealed the enormous amounts of energy being wasted in some manufacturing sites across several sectors due to inefficient and leaking compressed air systems (CAS).

While accounting for 16% of electricity use at typical manufacturing sites and 10% of total industrial electricity use, research by Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) reveals that 80–90% of the energy used to power CAS can be wasted.

A2EP was engaged by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) to assess 10 CAS systems at NSW manufacturers in 2020 and collaborated with DPIE to review the results from more than 40 surveys completed by participating NSW manufacturers.

While compressed air has been considered potentially inefficient, the analysis revealed the extent of the waste and subsequent impacts on productivity and costs for manufacturing.

The lead author of the report, Alan Pears AM, noted that there was a low awareness of the benefits of emerging smart electric alternatives to compressed air. “Savings of 80% on energy are often possible but, more importantly, their precision, speed and data-sharing capabilities offer businesses profit and productivity potential worth far more than the impressive amounts of energy they save.”

The research found that obstacles to optimising the efficiency of CAS were just as consistent and significant as the energy waste occurring.

“A lack of effective monitoring and common organisational energy goals prevent businesses from dealing with and optimising their compressed air systems,” said Jarrod Leak, CEO of A2EP.

“It’s a classic tragedy of the commons situation in a lot of companies with departmental silos and cost centres preventing action: those who incur the cost and deal with the inefficiency don’t get to enjoy all the benefits, so there is little incentive to act.

“We’re pleased that this report not only details the obstacles, but it also sets out steps and strategies for businesses to improve their CAS efficiency and to improve performance across industry.”

Image credit: © Halamka

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