How to report savings from a compressed air survey Pt. 1

January 30th, 2015

A compressed air survey can provide strong returns on investment and reduce a company’s carbon footprint, but the key is making sure you can identify opportunities and properly document results.

Mike Naro is a technical trainer with UE Systems and has extensive experience training individuals and conducting compressed air surveys. The following is a wrapup of his webinar on how to best report your savings and garner quick returns on investment.

Reliability centered maintenance is all about making sure plants are running their best. There are a number of benefits that can arise from this simple endeavor, including safety, machine performance, overhead savings and a smaller carbon footprint. Eliminating waste has become a priority for both industry professionals and national governments, as the private sector looks for new ways to increase revenues, while countries around the world are looking to cut back on carbon emissions. By fixing and controlling compressed air leaks, we can address both of these concerns.

How fixing leaks produces ROI
There are a number of ways that companies can see strong returns on investment through fixing compressed air leaks. With concerns about carbon emissions growing, governments are looking for ways to incentivize emissions reduction. A number of them have implemented what are known as carbon trading schemes. In these scenarios, emissions credits are awarded to companies or countries that reduce their carbon emissions below a certain amount. These credits can then be bought and sold in the same way that stocks would on the open market. This provides a way for companies to see immediate returns on their carbon reductions.

Another way in which companies can produce significant ROI is through energy savings. The price of fossil fuels continues to climb, and even though there has been a recent increase in North American fuel supplies, energy is still among the most expensive commodities for an industrial plant. By fixing compressed air leaks, you cut down on your energy expenditures, thus lowering your utility bill and driving up the bottom line.

This has led number of companies to implement massive energy efficiency programs. While these programs are widely successful and can produce long-term savings, they are also expensive to initially implement. Fortunately, through ultrasonic compressed air leak detection, you can identify opportunities to reduce both carbon emissions and energy usage.

Why is compressed air so inefficient?
Of the energy that goes into an air compressor, on average only 18 percent comes out as useable energy. This means that less than 20 percent of the energy used for compressed air is actually workable. Because this is such a small figure, it is essential that plant operators be able to maximize this efficiency in order to get the most out of low energy output.

With the use of ultrasonic instruments, such as the Ultraprobe 15,000, we can locate compressed air leaks and enhance efficiency. By being able to detect sounds that the human ear would not otherwise be able to hear and locating their source, you can identify places where your plant is quite literally leaking money. Typically, the frequency at which these leaks are detected is 40 kilohertz.

Locating a leak
The best way to detect air leaks is through a gross to fine approach, which effectively means starting in a wide area and trimming this area down as you get closer to the leak. First, identify an area with compressed air and create a test zone. Next walk around the zone, scanning with the sensitivity turned up. When a leak sound is heard, reduce the sensitivity and follow the sound. This will work because Ultrasound is directional. As you get closer to the leak source the sound will increase, turn down your sensitivity to hone in on that specific sound wave, which will create a line of sound to the leak site.

Begin walking toward the sound, while scanning in all directions, keeping a bead on the line of sound. As you do this, be sure to continue adjusting sensitivity so that you can stay focused on your previously identified leak, which is likely competing with other sounds in the area.

When you’re as close to the leak as possible and cannot tell the exact location of the leak, put the focusing probe¬†on the end of the scanning module of the Ultraprobe, so that you may narrow its field of view, and further hone in on the¬†suspected leak site. Once you’re close to the leak, put the probe right up to where you might suspect the leak is located – if the sound is still there and possibly louder, then you’ve found your leak.

The next step is to move the tip of the instrument back between 12 inches to 15 inches from the leak and while pointing directly at the leak, store your decibel reading. This will be able to provide you with numerous amounts of important information about the leak. You can then download this information on the probe and store it on the compact flash card. This data can then be entered onto corresponding software that can detect how much the leak costs and how much greenhouse gas emissions are being produced.

The next part of this series will focus on how we can accurately store, track and present this data, and how it can be used to produce a strong ROI. Click here for Part 2.

Suggested Compressed Air instruments: Ultraprobe 3000; Ultrparobe 9000: Ultraprobe 10,000: Ultraprobe 15,000

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