In most plants, compressed air is a critical utility used for instrument air systems tied into process control components. Though air is free, electricity or steam to operate the compressors that provide high pressure air is not.
Compressed air systems typically account for approximately 10% of the electricity consumed in an industrial facility. In plants that include filling and packaging sections, compressed air systems may account for even more than that. A compressor and its accessories must reliably supply clean, dry air and efficiently utilize the air with minimal wastage. If not properly cared for, these critical instrument air systems could shut down an entire facility. For example, a 205,000-bbl/d refinery suddenly lost its processing capacity when one of its large air compressors tripped, causing the instrument air system to lose pressure.