Compressed air regulatory preparedness

Feb. 8, 2019

Like them or not, regulations are the safeguards for so many aspects of life.

Ah, regulations. Like them or not, they are the safeguards for so many aspects of life. I’ll admit, in most cases, I like the structure and protection that comes with regulations. And new regulations are imminent for compressor efficiency.

Over the past several years, the compressor industry has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to collectively develop minimum efficiency standards for compressors. While the DOE has developed a framework for standards in air compressor efficiency, the final rules have been stalled in prepublication review and remain on an indefinite hold. Several states are ahead of the federal government in their actions. I guess you could call them the early birds who get the worms. But the anticipation of DOE rules is enough to prompt action from states.

The DOE is expected to set a minimum efficiency level for compressors. Think of it like cars. Consider a car with the worst gas mileage versus one with the best. Imagine that the new standard stipulates that the minimum mile-per-gallon rating be within 5% of that of the most efficient car. This makes the window between the least efficient car and the most efficient car tighter, creating a need for more innovative and efficient designs to prevent being a “bottom feeder” in efficiency. This is how the DOE has approached the creation of minimum efficiency levels for air compressors.

The DOE will also require the use of an additional metric to calculate compressor energy consumption. Operators who are planning to purchase a new air compressor will need to consider isentropic efficiency in addition to specific power during their evaluation. The Compressed Air & Gas Institute (CAGI) defines isentropic efficiency as:

“The ratio of theoretical power required to compress an ideal gas from the inlet pressure to a stated pressure to the actual power required. The value is always less than 100 percent due to friction, heat transfer and the thermodynamic irreversibility of compressing air.”

Simply stated, the purpose of the new metric is to make it easier for customers to compare the energy efficiency of various compressor models on the market to make an informed choice. Previously, customers had to use a specific energy metric that is pressure-dependent. This caused confusion because it required customers to perform calculations to properly compare models when performance was at different pressures.

While these proposed regulations aren’t set in stone, one thing is: Updates for optimizing compressed air systems will continue. Efficiency scrutiny will only increase, and the requirements to protect customers and the environment will become more stringent. Compressor manufacturers will also have to prepare for the changes. What are your thoughts on these regulations?

About the Author

Alexis Gajewski | Senior Content Strategist

Alexis Gajewski has over 15 years of experience in the maintenance, reliability, operations, and manufacturing space. She joined Plant Services in 2008 and works to bring readers the news, insight, and information they need to make the right decisions for their plants. Alexis also authors “The Lighter Side of Manufacturing,” a blog that highlights the fun and innovative advances in the industrial sector. 

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