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Setting the standard - raising the bar

21 July 2014

Chris Dee, executive director at BCAS (British Compressed Air Society), provides a brief history of the development of Pneurop and details the latest work being undertaken by the association to improve compressed air efficiency at a European level.

Pneurop is the European association of manufacturers of compressors, vacuum pumps, pneumatic tools and allied equipment, represented by their national associations.

The first steps to form Pneurop were taken in 1958 and 1959 by the respective trade associations of France, Germany and, in Great Britain through BCAS.  Pneurop was formed in 1960 with, as its founding members, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland.  

Today, members are from national associations representing more than 200 manufacturers in eight EU Member States, plus Switzerland and Turkey.

The European market turnover for the business represented exceeds €20 billion. 

Pneurop was established to study the development of the compressed air industry and foster its progress.  Its early work was fundamental in producing a glossary of terms, a classification of products and the harmonisation of the different national test rules.

Pioneering work also took place in the production of safety documents, compressed air quality classes, acceptance specifications for vacuum pumps, noise and vibration test procedures.

From the mid-1980s Pneurop, being an EC-recognised ‘sector committee’, has been involved in detailed discussion on draft directives and work on the CEN (European Standards Organisation) harmonised standards mandated from the European Commission.  This work continues today.

Following the intensive years of work on directives and harmonised standards, Pneurop has now returned to studying areas such as compressed air contaminants, purity classes and measurement methods, as well as items for submission to ISO.

Pneurop speaks on behalf of its members in European and international forums regarding the harmonisation of technical, normative and legislative developments in the field of compressors, vacuum pumps, pneumatic tools and allied equipment.

The association also supports the overall sustainable energy policy objectives of the European Union within the sphere of its responsibilities.  Its member companies actively promote energy efficiency for the benefit of their customers as part of their daily business activity.

Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC

Compressors have been listed under the Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC working plan 2012-2014 as Lot 31, and the preparatory study was 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’ comprises 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 the workhorses of the whole 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.

The way forward

At the Ecodesign Horizontal Consultation Forum on 5th May 2014, the European Commission presented two policy options: 

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

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.  

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 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 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 expected benefits in terms of energy savings will be far from what could be expected.

Instead of focusing on effective measures to improve complete compressed air systems, manufacturers will be compelled to devote their engineering resources primarily to susbstitue the products banned from the EU.  This will enable little or no progress towards achiving the BAT level and will inevitably impair their longer-term global competitiveness.  

About Pneurop

Pneurop is the European association of manufacturers of compressors, vacuum pumps, pneumatic tools and air & condensate treatment equipment, represented by their national associations.  

Pneurop represents more than 130 manufacturers in the EU having a combined turnover of about 21 billion Euro.  Pneurop speaks on behalf of the manufacturing industry in European and international forums regarding the harmonisation of technical, normative and legislative developments.