Environmental activism has reached a turning point as consumers increasingly demand that companies reduce their carbon footprint and optimize energy efficiency. As a consequence, sustainability is now on the agenda in the boardrooms and quickly becoming a top strategic initiative.
When talking to the Enersize Advisory Council (EAC) members at the inaugural council meeting, we learned that their visions are increasingly tied to sustainability-related topics. This illustrates the increasing strategic importance of environmental questions and sustainable solutions. Against this backdrop, there is room for energy optimization of compressed air in many organizations as part of the overarching ambition to deliver on the sustainability goals.
Green Deal and legislation are other key drivers
EAC members are engaged in projects where (in a very pragmatic way) different sustainability and energy efficiency objectives and KPIs are defined and then acted upon. The European Green Deal was mentioned as one of the drivers (EU climate neutral by 2050). The challenge remains how to reach a sustainable operation while still being profitable and commercially motivated. New laws and legislation are also expected to drive a change in behavior and result in good examples and role models. So far most initiatives are coming from top management but more initiatives will need to come from the ground up to make this change.
Best use of compressed air – and where can it be replaced?
There is an ambition with many of the members to replace compressed air where possible, but this is easier said than done. Compressed air is usable in explosive areas, can’t be replaced at all in certain processes like foundry in the sand, and is very robust as it does not stop when you have issues with the supply (like electric solutions). There are also many processes that have been developed using compressed air that would be very expensive to replace. Between the EAC members, there is consensus that compressed air is here to stay. On the other hand, blowing, cleaning, vacuum and cooling are mentioned as areas where compressed air is inefficient and can be replaced.
Is there an alternative to compressed air?
Several EAC members mention that battery technology has evolved a lot lately, which means that now there is an option to look at electromechanics to replace compressed air-based solutions. Lifecycle cost or total cost of ownership will impact decisions – which makes it even more important to put a price tag on compressed air. Many companies still treat compressed air as a free medium.
It is also key to discuss dimensioning of components in a more refined and balanced way. Today, most components in machine builders’ solutions are oversized as no one is asking for optimization.
In the council meeting, the topic of energy optimization comes up as an important topic. Today, this is a key metric when ordering new machines.
What have you done to optimize?
Most EAC members see the potential in energy optimization of compressed air but point at a lack of education and awareness as a major hurdle to change the attitude around compressed air and the cost of using it. Most organizations have regular projects to identify and analyze leakage but there is a challenge to repair the leaks (as other work has higher priority).
Most organizations have invested in control systems to optimize the compressor co-operation and harmonization but these often don’t work as expected and don’t deliver the energy optimization promised (as few organizations have the know-how needed). There is consensus among the EAC members that it would be of great help if KPIs and target values could be defined and used for benchmarking to make clear what is good, average and poor. This could help the industry define a path towards improvement and optimization.
Investment priorities for Enersize
The recommendation from EAC members is clear: Enersize should first and foremost continue to develop expertise to gather and analyze real-time data from compressed air systems with a view to supporting decision-making and automation.
Second, keep on developing strong business cases for change based on the understanding of inefficiencies in the complex world of compressed air systems. The focus could increase on “non-energy benefits” such as increased reliability, reduced maintenance costs, air quality, safety, noise, etc. Some also would like to see Enersize move into the area of compressor control.
Third, the compressed air system analysis could contain more production impacting results which are predicting potential disturbance and risks.
Finally, it is important to EAC members to have local partners who deliver the solutions in that they understand the local situation and it reduce costs. Enersize should therefore focus on building out the partner ecosystem.
The Enersize Advisory Council is a sounding board to drive and develop analysis, optimization, and performance of industrial compressed air. Membership is by invitation only.