What’s your compressed air backup plan?

July 14, 2016

Can you handle worst-case conditions?

Right now, your air compressor may be humming along nicely as it has been for many years, but there will come a day when things will crash. It pays to have a backup plan so your plant can run trouble-free, even when units go down.

I’m always concerned when plants put in the bare minimum for equipment. My recommendation is to plan for the failure of the largest compressor with no lack of capacity. This backup can be an older unit – perhaps a reconditioned compressor that is getting on in years but is reliable enough to provide enough capacity in your worst-case scenario.

The air compressor is not the only piece of equipment that should be backed up, either. You should be able to lose any air dryer, cooler, or filter to an emergency maintenance outage at any time without loss in pressure. And plan the isolation valve arrangement so that any piece of equipment can be taken out of service and isolated without taking the plant down.

A local compressed air user here in my territory is experiencing such an outage right now. The air dryer has suffered a major failure and has taken the plant down because there wasn't adequate backup capacity planned. What seemed to be a prudent decision during the design phase – saving the cost of an extra piece of equipment – is now coming back to haunt the customer in a long unplanned production outage.

Go take a look at your equipment arrangement and imagine your worst-case scenario and what would happen to your plant (and possibly your job) if it occurred. Have your system audited to ensure you have adequate capacity for all challenges. You can save yourself a lot of trouble.

And when purchasing any new equipment, make sure you take system efficiency into account. Most modern air system components have been redesigned to be more efficient than old equipment and will save you operating costs.

Learn more about compressors and dryers at Compressed Air Challenge's next Fundamentals of Compressed Air Systems seminar. Check out the calendar at www.compressedairchallenge.org.

About the Author

Ron Marshall

Ron Marshall first developed his skills as an industrial compressed air systems expert at Manitoba Hydro, where he worked for 38 years, supporting more than 600 energy efficiency projects. He now operates his own compressed air energy efficiency consulting firm where he provides technical advice, system auditing, and training.  Ron is a level 2 instructor with Compressed Air Challenge and conducts training internationally. Contact him at [email protected].Want to learn more about compressed air? We would suggest sending key staff to one of our Compressed Air Challenge seminars to help them learn what is possible. To learn more about upcoming training opportunities visit the CAC calendar at https://www.compressedairchallenge.org/calendar.

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