19 September, 2017

Reducing the environmental impact of compressors

04 January, 2015
By Chris Dee, executive director, the British Compressed Air Society. One of the major directives impacting on the activities of compressed air equipment manufacturers in the UK is the Ecodesign of Energy Related Products’ Directive 2009/125/EC. According to Gov.UK, the objective of the directive is to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other adverse environmental impacts throughout the life-cycle of a product with emphasis placed on the design and development stages of a product with a view to improving its energy efficiency”. It does this by setting minimum requirements for certain energy consuming products of which compressors and associated equipment form a significant component part. Background Compressors have been listed under the Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC working plan 2012-2014 as Lot 31, with a preparatory study assigned to consultants VHK from the Netherlands for the period March 2012 to June 2014. During the discussions at the kick-off meeting in March 2012, it was clear that the category of ‘compressors’ is comprised of an extensive range of products, and it was not possible to cover them all in a single study. Five distinct application ranges were identified therefore, and the initial focus was agreed to be centered on ‘standard air compressors’, because this range is served by oil-injected screws/vanes and oil-lubricated pistons, which are considered the workhorses of the industry. With estimated annual sales in excess of 100,000 units, the best energy-saving potential was expected for this product range. It was therefore assumed that the other application ranges would be investigated in a further study, after the ‘standard air’ study had been completed. Lot 31 study findings The statistical approach revealed a substantial spreading in the isentropic efficiency of standard air compressors of approximately 20 to 30 percentage points depending on the capacity of the compressor. The study proved that, despite this large spread, the estimated energy savings are moderate. [subhead] The way forward At the Ecodesign Horizontal Consultation Forum on 5th May 2014, the European Commission presented two policy options: 1. To postpone the Ecodesign implementing measure for ‘standard air’ compressors and, after further analysis of ‘low pressure’ and ‘oil-free air’ compressors, propose a single implementing measure for all three application ranges; or 2. To propose an implementing measure for ‘standard air’ compressors while in parallel, continue the analysis for ‘low pressure’ and ‘oil-free air’ by introducing information requirements and/or by mentioning these specifically as a matter for future revision. [subhead] Pneurop position With regard to the options proposed by the European Commission, both could be acceptable. However, Pneurop insists that adequate time is allowed to conduct in-depth studies for the ‘low pressure’ and ‘oil-free air’ application ranges, so that the study conclusions will be of the same quality as for ‘standard air.’ Pneurop also wants to highlight that putting a regulation in place for ‘standard air’ without a perspective on significant energy savings will entail substantial costs – not only for manufacturers but also for member states and the Commission. Therefore Pneurop emphasises that ‘business as usual’ is a valid and already ambitious scenario for ‘standard air’ because it will actually yield energy savings. This is because manufacturers will continue to improve their products from worst available technology (WAT) to best available technology (BAT) at compressed air ‘system’ level, thereby improving energy savings as well as their competitiveness on a global scale. If a Regulation is introduced on ‘standard air’ today, and if a stringent scenario is selected, the benefits in terms of energy savings will be far from what could be expected. Instead of focusing on effective measures to improved complete compressed air systems, manufacturers will be compelled to devote their engineering resources primarily to substitute the products





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