25 June, 2024

Smart compressed air and vacuum system generates substantial energy savings for brick maker

20 February, 2020

Atlas Copco’s compressed air and vacuum systems upgrade for Manchester-based brick maker Wienerberger Ltd is resulting in significant savings in energy costs, estimated to be around £38,000 per annum, along with reduced CO2 emissions and production downtime, plus the added benefit of a short-term payback.

The company’s Denton plant, near Manchester, is one of 14 Wienerberger production sites in the UK providing wall, roof and landscaping innovations. It is a major part of global building solutions manufacturer Wienerberger Building Solutions, the world’s largest producer of bricks and clay blocks, and the market leader for clay roof tiles.

The existing compressor system upgrade project at the Windmill Lane factory was triggered by episodes of unreliability. This led to a stark choice between carrying out costly motor rewinds or taking the longer view and replacing the compressors with state-of-the-art alternatives offering higher efficiency and dependable performance.

The compressor installation’s primary function in brick production was a 7-bar air supply to pneumatic cylinders, powering the clutches of the mixers blending essential additives with the basic ground and milled clay processing operation, and those of the extruders. This, together with the final sandblast treatment, determined the quality, performance and appearance of the finished products.

There were similar performance and efficiency issues with the vacuum pump system employed to remove air from the brick material before extrusion, forming and kiln firing. Operation was intermittent because of problems running cooling water through the pumps, whose design offered only limited opportunity for corrective maintenance.

To rectify these problem areas of his manufacturing processes, Miles Coppinger, Wienerberger’s director of production North, called on the services of Atlas Copco, which is a specialist supplier of both compressed air and vacuum. His decision was based on his familiarity with their products, service and reputation from experience in a previous organisation.

Clear opportunity

The first task was a week-long iiTrak data-logging procedure to determine the energy usage of the existing plant, the air demand requirements and the system’s capabilities in order to establish a flow profile. The results demonstrated a clear opportunity to make significant energy savings, reduce the company’s carbon footprint and introduce a new level of reliability and performance.

The recommendation was for a complete replacement compressed air installation. This would comprise an Atlas Copco GA90VSD+FF rotary screw compressor, a fixed-speed GA 75+ machine together with an FX15 refrigerant dryer, a 3000-litre air receiver with electronic zero-loss drain, plus ancillaries including an OSC oil/water separator, all connected by an Optimizer 4.0 central controller.

To minimise pressure drops in the air network, the existing 4-inch galvanised pipework was to be replaced with an Atlas Copco AirNet 80mm modular aluminium system, installed by local premier distributor, Pennine Pneumatic Services. To contribute to overall energy efficiency, the compressors would feature winter/summer ducting to aid heat recovery and direct hot air into the factory during colder months via manual vent switching.

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