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Update on compressed air standards & regulations

23 October 2020

The British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) provides an overview of the voluntary standards and the mandatory, technical regulations that have an impact of compressed air users.

Standards and regulations that have a direct impact

BS/ISO 8573-1 (Classification of air quality/purity):

This standard is applied for any process requiring compressed air to be delivered / used at a pre-defined purity specification. The standard allows for a consistent purity level to be defined and measured against. Note that the dated revisions of the standard define the purity specification at the time of specification, and care should be taken to note the date of the standard referred to, as the permissible solid particulate levels were revised. For example:

Air purity compliant to ISO 8573-1:2001 Class 1:2:1 defines maximum permissible amounts of contamination as: Particles at Class 1 (100x 0.1 to 0.5 micron/m3 & 1x 0.5 to 1 micron/m3 & 0x 1 to 5 micron/m3), Water at Class 2 (-40°C Pressure Dewpoint), Oil at Class 1 (0.01 mg/m3 Aerosol + Vapour)


Air purity compliant to ISO 8573-1:2010 Class 1.2.1 defines maximum permissible amounts of contamination as: Particles at Class 1 (20,000x 0.1 to 0.5 micron/m3 & 400x 0.5 to 1 micron/m3 & 10x 1 to 5 micron/m3), Water at Class 2 (-40°C Pressure Dewpoint), Oil at Class 1 (0.01 mg/m3 Aerosol + Vapour)

BS/ISO 11011:2013 (Energy efficiency audit for the entire compressed air system):

This existing standard is applied to provide a structured plan to carry out an exhaustive survey on an existing system to identify areas of improvement. This is not limited to finding and fixing leaks. It also focuses on eliminating waste, optimising control of compressors (where more than one compressor is used) and addressing point of use inefficiency.

PSSR:2000 (Pressure Systems Safety Regulation):

This well-established piece of legislation states that a user (or owner, in the case of a mobile system) of an installed compressed air (or ‘relevant fluid’) system with a stored energy capacity greater than 250 bar litres is required to have a Written Scheme of Examination in place. This WSE will define the required examination scope and period, along with the expected maintenance interventions and period.

F-Gas regulations (restriction of supply to market of harmful HFC products):

The phase-down process is ongoing, and the benefit of ‘reclaiming and recycling’ is being promoted as a method to reduce the impact of increasing costs due to restricted supply. The promotion of lower GWP refrigerants is also being encouraged to increase end-user awareness. This regulation is continually evolving, and it is important to stay abreast of the latest obligations.

For example, from January 1st, 2020, virgin R404a refrigerant was outlawed (although operators can still use reclaimed gas), and new restrictions (refrigerant with GWP >2500 and a system with equivalent to 40 tonnes or more CO2) apply to supplying / populating systems with virgin refrigeration gas.

ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental management):

From a compressed air perspective, compliance with this standard will focus on waste oil disposal, including air treatment consumables and drain condensate disposal. Operators are advised to check the credentials of their service provider and be confident that latest best practices are being adhered to.

Standards and regulations that have a indirect impact

ISO 1217 (Manufacturers’ (Positive displacement compressor types, only) reference standard for performance measurement):

This standard allows comparison of the efficiency performance of different positive displacement compressor technologies from different suppliers.

BS/EN 1012 (Manufacturers reference standard for safety of compressors):

The standard provides assurance that the delivered compressor is ‘fit-for-purpose.’

ISO 18623-1 will soon be published with the intention to supersede the existing BS/EN 1012 (which was published in 1997 and revised in 2010).

BS/ISO 12500 (Manufacturers reference standard for performance of air treatment products):

BS/ISO 12500 enables comparison of the performance of compressed air filters for compressed air for three different filter / contaminant types:

- Part 1 covers coalescing filters for the removal of oil aerosols

- Part 2 covers adsorbent filters (such as activated carbon) for the removal of oil vapours and odours

- Part 3 covers particulate filters for the removal of solid particles

PED/SPVD - Regulations

The PED (Pressure equipment directive) and SPVD (Simple pressure vessels directive) are European Directives intended to avoid technical barriers to free trade and to guarantee safe use of pressure equipment across the European Union.

The revised PED and SPVD Guidelines were published in October 2018. A further revision of EN 286-2 and EN 286-3 is ongoing to achieve compliance with SPVD to aid harmonisation.

Machinery directive - regulation

The Machinery directive (MD) is the core European legislation covering mechanical engineering products. Machinery must be supported with a technical file and is subject to an assessment process to ensure compliance with the MD. A declaration of conformity (or Incorporation for partially completed equipment) is produced and the machinery has CE marking before being placed on the market.

WEEE2 ‘Open Scope’

The previous incarnation of the WEEE (Waste electrical and electronic equipment) directive contained specific exclusions which stated that compressors, pneumatic tools and dryers were outside of the scope of this directive. However, as of 15th August 2018 there has been in place an ‘open scope’ on WEEE. Prior to this the scope was limited to 10 defined categories, but after this date all electric and electronic equipment is included unless explicitly excluded.  This means that virtually all electric and electronic products now need to provide information on recyclability of products.

Orgalim has published a guide: “A practical guide to understanding the scope and obligations of Directive 2012/19/EU on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)” to help companies navigate the open scope which can be supplied to BCAS members on request.

REACH / SCIP database

REACH (registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals) is a harmonised European regulation intended to manage the safe management and use of chemicals. The ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) in Helsinki manages a centralised database on all chemicals and restrictions on their use.

For compressed air users, the significance was applied to the selection of suitable oils (for cooling and lubrication). As of 5th January 2021, the supplier of an article (or product) containing a candidate list substance (>0.1% w/w) has to submit data to ECHA (see ECHA Website) for inclusion in a database intended to enable the waste treatment operators to identify the substance and to manage its disposal appropriately.

Eco-design directive

The Ecodesign directive is a set of European requirements aimed at encouraging manufacturers to produce more energy efficient products from a complete life cycle perspective. Initially targeted toward all ‘energy using products’ which consume electric power while in standby and off modes, the scope was extended to include a range of industrial products, including air compressors (known as Lot 31).

The directive is not expected to impact products placed on the market until 2021, with the most likely impact for end-users cited as the ability to compare different products for energy efficiency.