Rising energy costs and growing concern for industrial environmental impact has manufacturing taking a second look at their operations' energy efficiency. One area increasingly under review is the use - or more importantly, the misuse - of compressed air. When used "inappropriately" (as defined by the Department of Energy's Compressed Air Challenge), high pressure compressed air bleeds into the atmosphere producing a significant energy loss, as well as a comparably high demand on compressor utilization. With a price tag of $1.5 billion in U.S. manufacturing compressed air energy costs each year (according to the Department of Energy), compressed air alternative solutions, such as high-speed, centrifugal blowers, represent a significant energy and cost-saving option for manufacturers. Recently, a major US soft drink bottler replaced their compressed air system with a JetAir Technologies high-speed centrifugal blower system realizing an 87% true energy power savings and an 80% energy cost saving, as well as a return of compressed air compressor capacity.
A leading soft drink bottler's compressed air needs were threatening to exceed its Michigan plant's compressed air capacity. Faced with the cost of buying a new compressor, the bottler re-assessed their compressed air use to identify compressor and energy saving opportunities. In the audit, the soft drink bottler identified the use of compressed air in a gap transfer on their canning line as a source of compressed air and energy inefficiency. The soft drink bottler's system was generating 100 PSI of compressed air for an application that only required 2-3 PSI. this compressed air was directed through two 1/4" copper tube nozzles to transfer empty, open aluminum cans from a single cable-pulley system to a second cable-pulley system over an unassisted gap of approximately 18-20 inches. The purpose of the gap was to provide access for the inkjet date imprinting which is visible on the bottom of the cans. The compressed air application, although an inefficient use of compressed air, enabled the continual flow of the cans across the inkjet printer to the second cable-pulley system.
Gap Transfer System
In their quest to regain compressed air capacity, the soft drink bottler's plant engineer contacted JetAir Technologies regarding the possibility of replacing the compressed air application with a high-speed, centrifugal blower system. A JetAir Technologies' applications engineer visited the bottler's plant to assess the situation. The visit confirmed the soft drink bottler's concern. JetAir's application engineer found significant compressed air and energy waste, as well as a concerning high noise level cause by the nozzles at the transfer.
Although only needing 2-3 PSI of pressure at the site of the gap transfer, the compressor was producing 100 PSI, a full 50 times the needed amount. The flow measured at each nozzle was 49.9 CFM. Assuming the industry standard of 4 CFM per kW, the application was requiring 22.7HP(18kW) of energy generation. With an operating schedule of 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, the total energy usage was estimated at 53,430 kW-Hr, the application was costing the soft drink bottling manufacturer a total energy and maintenance costs of $4,530 a year.
JetAir Technologies' engineers recognized the issue's similarity to a recent gap transfer project for a leading Styrofoam cup manufacturer. Having tested and provided a similar system, JetAir Technologies' engineers used this technology and experience to replace the compressed air nozzles with a custom, high-speed centrifugal blower system. As a visual representation, the engineering team also sent an example of the solution to the drink manufacturer. "That's one of the value added things JetAir Technologies provides. We'll test just about anything, make a video of it, and post it." - Scott Lynn, JetAir Technologies' Eastern Regional Manager.
The JetAir Technologies' engineering team designed a custom solution that included a JET-1 high-speed motor and blower, Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), and four custom adjustable-mount nozzles. The JET-1 Direct-Drive technology enabled adjustable operation speeds of up to 20,000 RPM, creating adjustable flow rates of up to 750 CFM at pressures of 2.3 PSI. the compact footprint of the motor and blower enabled it to be located within feet of the application via 3" diameter (75 mm) hoses to the adjustable nozzles. The nozzles were then mounted at each corner of the guide rails (bottom/top-left, bottom-top-right) at the beginning of the gap. the custom mounting application and nozzles provided the soft drink bottling manufacturer adjustable air directional flow, while the VFD provided air flow and pressure adjustability.
JetAir Technologies' engineering testing of the custom solution demonstrated significant operational and energy savings. While the system originally consumed 22.7 HP (18 kW), JetAir Technologies' custom JET-1 blower solution enabled a true energy consumption of only 3 Hp (2.2 kW). this represented an energy reduction of 20 HP, or an 87% true energy consumption savings. Based upon the soft drink manufacturer's production cycle and kW per hour rate, the JET-1 custom solution's energy costs were estimated at only $970 per year (including maintenance), resulting in a total yearly savings of $3,560. This drastically reduced the soft drink bottling manufacturer's annual energy costs by 80%. These energy cost savings offered an estimated 65% return on the investment in the first year, and 125% ROI in two years.
Operating Cost Savings with JET-1 System
Once installed, the compressed air and energy savings and the operational benefits were immediate. "It was quieter. It was saving his compressed air and saving horsepower," said Scott Lynn. "They ran power to it, set it up, turned it on, and haven't had any problems. When I called to follow up with them, the plant engineer told me it was much quieter than the old system."
The soft drink bottling manufacturer's installation of the JET-1 blower system eliminated the "inappropriate use of compressed air" (as defined by the DOE's Compressed Air Challenge), effectively reducing the amount of compressed air bled to atmosphere. This reduction of energy waste translated into a dramatic 80% reduction in yearly energy costs, lowering monthly costs from $380/mo. to $80/mo. As an added bonus, the efficient and streamlined design of the JET-1 blower system eliminated the high-pitched operational noise emitted by the old gap transfer system much to the plant engineer's appreciation.
"Its like printing money,"
said the leading soft drink manufacturer's plant manager.
Loss of compressed air to the atmosphere represents a significant energy and cost waste that can easily be eliminated with efficient, alternative solutions. High-speed centrifugal blowers offer an environmentally appropriate, effective and cost conscious alternative to compressed air. Realization of these energy and cost savings, however, begins with a compressed air utilization assessment. As demonstrated by the leading soft drink bottling manufacturer's experience, reassessing your compressed air usage may offer significant and immediate compressed air, energy and cost savings. With rising energy costs and environmental concerns, mitigating your company's energy use and environmental impact is imperative in identifying savings opportunities. Alternatives like high-speed centrifugal blowers offer an opportunity to operate more efficiently, effectively reducing your environmental impact and increasing your savings.