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New year - new compressed air skills 08/01/2021

THE BRITISH Compressed Air Society (BCAS) is offering all end-user customers of BCAS members an exclusive 25% discount on its full range of CPD-approved training courses.

Announced to celebrate the launch of the Society’s new e-learning portal (e-learning.bcas.org.uk), the offer also includes free, associate membership of BCAS for each customer (excluding trade customers). This provides a host of additional benefits, such as discounted publications, as well as access to compressed air guidelines and the society’s social events.

To benefit from the offer, end-users should simply contact their supplying BCAS member, who will provide a unique booking code. This code can then be used to redeem the 25% discount off the complete range of e-Learning and blended learning training courses available.  

Details of all BCAS members can also be found on the Society’s website at www.bcas.org.uk/directory.  

BCAS has long been recognised as a provider of training and development for engineers, technical professionals and users of compressed air.  It offers a wide range of specialist courses that are tailored to the needs of industry, combining safe working practices, with specific guidance on all aspects of compressed air performance.

These include specialist eLearning courses, which provide practical training for compressed air and vacuum users, alongside a host of health and safety tutorials, with popular courses including:

- Certificate in working safely with compressed air (WSWCA)

- Certificate in compressed air treatment technology (CATT)

- Certificate in compressed air system technology (CAST)

- An employee certificate in maintaining a Covid-19 secure workplace

Blended learning courses combine online tutorials and training with guided learning and assessment by a BCAS qualified tutor.  This helps delegates to learn at a time and place to suit, combining at-home study with invigilated examination. Courses include:

- Certificate in understanding the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulations (PSSR)

- Certificate in understanding ISO8573

- Diploma in Compressed Air Management (DipCam)

Vanda Jones, BCAS Executive Director comments: “The start of a new year is always a good time for companies to consider their training requirements and help their staff to brush up on their skills!  With home and remote working now making it more challenging to organise face-to-face training for every requirement, we are delighted to launch our new eLearning portal, helping engineers, compressed air users and industry professionals to learn at a pace - and from a place - that suits.

“Add to this the exclusive 25 per cent discount available to all our members’ customers, and there really has never been a better time to train.”

Visit e-learning.bcas.org.uk/ to search the full range of courses. For further information, contact your local BCAS member, email training@bcas.org.uk or call 0207 935 2464.

https://www.bcas.org.uk/

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Changing behaviour to help cut energy consumption 20/11/2020

Vanda Jones, Executive Director for the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) takes you through some of the key factors when embarking on a compressed air energy reduction programme – focusing specifically on areas of behavioural change

Many compressed air system improvements will require elements of maintenance or equipment/system upgrade, but the human element should not be overlooked. Operators can make substantial efficiency improvements by implementing new processes and encouraging staff to use compressed air more efficiently and safely.

Take a system approach

A compressed air system is just that; a system, and every element of it impacts on its energy consumption. When discussing efficiency and the potential savings that could be realised, it is important to take a full, system approach. – from generation to air treatment to distribution and finally, the point of use.

Identify wastage

An ideal place to start is to identify some of the key areas where valuable compressed air can be wasted by processes or people downstream of the compressor.  

For example, if you install the most efficient compressor available, but connect it to a system with a 30 per cent leak rate, then all the benefits are lost.  Customers should aim to improve the overall system efficiency. Efficiency in the generation of compressed air is one aspect but targeting avoidable waste in the system is even more important.

Detect and fix leaks

Reducing air leaks can have a big impact on overall system efficiency. Leak rates in industrial systems are typically between 20 and 40 per cent, meaning the compressor has to work harder, and therefore consume more energy, to compensate for the pressure loss.

A tiny leak of just three millimetres can cost more than £700 a year in wasted energy

A tiny leak of just three millimetres can cost more than £700 a year in wasted energy, but an out-of-hours survey can identify leaks easily. Simply walk the site listening for leaks.

The location can then be confirmed by using an ultrasonic leak detector, a leak detection spray or even a soap solution brushed on to pipe fittings.

Switch off

Even when off-load, compressors can consume up to 70 per cent of their full load power, so switch off units overnight where there is no demand for air.  Operators should check the time switch settings regularly to ensure they are optimising running hours as this can also help to reduce maintenance costs.

Where appropriate, energy management systems should be installed to turn compressors off when they are not being.

Review compressed air usage

Compressed air is energy intensive to run, and cheaper options exist for certain jobs.  For example, there may be more energy-efficient alternatives for drying and ventilation.  However, for applications where there are risks of explosion or electrical interference, compressed air remains the best option.

Train and involve staff

Simple awareness sessions to advise staff about the costs and safe use of compressed air can be highly effective. For example, not allowing benches or equipment to be cleaned down with compressed air will save a significant amount of air being vented into the atmosphere.  

Don't over treat air

Treating air to remove dirt, water and oil is necessary but can use a lot of energy. Most processes are likely to only need a proportion of the compressed air to be treated to a very high purity. In these cases, excellent savings are achievable be treating all the generated air to the minimum acceptable level and improving the purity (quality) to the desired level at the usage point.

Further reading

BCAS’s Reducing Energy Consumption from Compressed Air Usage’ best practice guide
BCAS’s ‘The Filtration and Drying of Compressed Air’ best practice guide

www.bcas.org.uk

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Training update 23/10/2020

BCAS has recently invested in a new e-learning portal. Here is an update on the latest courses on offer

Working safely with compressed air (WSWCA)

The hour-long course covers the hazards of compressed air as an energy source, the use of personal protective equipment, employer and employee responsibilities with respect to health and safety when using compressed air and a list of safe working practices to be followed.

Compressed air system technology (CAST)

CAST provides a comprehensive introduction to the main principles of compressed air systems. It is a unique qualification to meet the needs of employers for compressed air training. 

This course is highly relevant to anyone needing to know more about compressed air production and use, relevant health and safety issues, legislation and energy efficiency. It is of relevance to manufacturers, distributors, installers and for any business using compressed air equipment and systems.

Maintaining a Covid-19 secure workplace

The course is based on the Government guidance on understanding how to safely work during the coronavirus pandemic, issued 11th May 2020.

It covers the workplace types identified by Government, including outdoor work, factories and warehouses, offices, branches, vehicles and is designed to fulfil the employer’s requirement to provide information and training to their employees in maintaining a Covid-19 secure workplace.

An introduction to PSSR 2000

This course provides the candidate with a comprehensive understanding of the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000, which cover the safe design and use of pressure systems.

The single aim of PSSR is to prevent serious injury from the hazard of stored energy

The single aim of PSSR is to prevent serious injury from the hazard of stored energy (pressure) as a result of the failure of a pressure system or one of its component parts.

If you are an owner or user of a compressed air system this course is highly relevant. It will guide you through your obligations under the regulations and demystify some of the terminology used when required to implement the regulations.

It will help to clarify the written scheme of examination process and how competent persons are defined.

This course is applicable to anyone needing to know who has responsibilities under PSSR 2000 and its relevant health and safety issues, and legislation. It is of relevance to manufacturers, distributors, installers and for any business using compressed air equipment and systems.

An Understanding of IS08573 – Compessed air purity verification or indicative testing

This course provides the candidate with a comprehensive understanding of ISO 8573 - the compressed air purity standard.

As compressed air is considered a utility, this course is beneficial to anyone who has responsibilities for pre-requisite programmes and their elevant health and safety issues, and legislation. It is of relevance to manufacturers, distributors, installers and for any business requiring clean and dry compressed air systems.

An introduction to air treatment

There are a wide range of compressed air applications that require very different levels of purity and therefore need different air treatment equipment and methods.

For example, clean air is not needed for tyre inflation on a garage forecourt, so very little would be invested in air treatment equipment. If however, the air is to be used in a micro-electronics process or a medical application, all contaminants must be reduced to very low levels and therefore, sophisticated air treatment systems are required.

This course details where contaminants come from and how to remove them using some of the air treatment processes available – and is of relevance to manufacturers, distributors, installers and for any business requiring clean and dry compressed air systems. 

For further information about the full range of BCAS training courses on offer, including class-room based training, please email training@bcas.org.uk or call
the number below.

www.bcas.org.uk

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BCAS Executive Director report 23/10/2020

Last year, we wrote about how the uncertainty created in the wake of Brexit negotiations was bad news for business. Fast forward a few months and little did any of us foresee the challenges that Covid-19 has brought to the industrial sector!

During this crisis, many organisations have had to change their focus and BCAS is no different. On the 16th of March, along with many other businesses, we closed our London office and the team started working from home.

With this change, it soon became clear that what our sector needed from BCAS was clear and concise interpretation of the Covid-10 guidelines. I am pleased to say that we rose to the challenge and have improved our links with Government departments in the process; finding them very responsive to the industry challenge and keen to listen, learn and adapt.

Building back better

The choices very early on in the pandemic were to furlough or not to furlough and fortunately, with the support of the Board, most of the BCAS team has continued to work.  We took this time as an opportunity to renew our commitment to member support and an interpretation of guidance as well as lobbying for the clarity and changes our sector required on a daily basis.   

Indeed, it is in times of challenge and change that trade associations come into their own, offering impartial support and advice - not only to their members but to the wider supplier and end-user community.

Improving our online training and producing new technical advice and guidance materials for end users was our second key deliverable during this time. We have delivered a new learning management system and by the time we return to our routine committee and standards meetings in September, we will have transferred all of our learning modules online. This will provide easier access for our members and a host of valuable online materials for users of compressed air, vacuum and downstream air treatment products. A great investment for the future supporting best practice and creating a safer and better-informed customer and industry at large.

A quick bounce back?

Our industry statistics are always an excellent barometer of industry performance. They use order volumes for our manufacturing sector and revenue figures for our service delivery sector, to provide an instant indicator of where the broader economy is heading.

The sharp downturn in the equipment orders is unsurprising, as is the fact that the service sector suffered less. Our industry did not stop working during the crisis. Key sectors still needed service support and our engineers did a sterling job in keeping industries such as health, utilities, food and beverage as well as manufacturing working safely.

Building on the past

For many years BCAS has been the secretariat for many standards’ committees, producing technical standards for our industry on a broad range range of products and services. BSI and ISO for example, depend on industry participation to ensure these standards are balanced, workable and add value.

Standards are core to the trade association and as we move into the post EU era, it will be critically important to ensure members and users are well informed of any changes and potential divergence in this important area. As well as the day-to-day standards development work, we are working closely with BSI to ensure that our industry key players are well represented at this important crossroad. We are a ‘go-to’ service for standards’ interpretation in our sector and this new era brings with it challenges that we are ideally placed to support.

Working in the present

As we get used to working in our new normal, we are refocussing on the industry’s requirements.   We have now left the EU and uncertainty still abounds as we advise our members to prepare for a hard Brexit. This is primarily on the basis that business needs time to prepare and that is simply a commodity that we don’t have as we near the end of the transition period.

We continue to work together with other trade associations in our sector to ensure that the voice of the sector is heard in the most efficient way.

Support for the future

Often referred to as the fourth utility, it is estimated that 10 per cent of global industrial energy usage is used to compressed air. It is therefore incumbent on BCAS, and its members, to ensure that we use our planet’s valuable resources wisely.

The UK’s 2050 net zero target is one of the most ambitious in the world. Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage. These new schemes require industry input and at BCAS we are rising to the challenge, working with the Energy Related Products directive through our colleagues at Pneurop and understanding how this will be implemented or amended to the UK’s requirements.

BCAS has long held ambitions to demonstrate the ability of users to cut their carbon footprint by using a safe and efficient approach to the whole compressed air system - as well as providing a comparative structure for users of air to clearly understand their systems’ energy requirements and how to reduce them.

Just a 10 per cent reduction in leaked/generated air usage would have a significant and positive impact on the climate for future generations to come. The BCAS board and our members recognise that this has to be a strategic focus in the coming months.

Why BCAS

With increased emphasis on the value of using a responsible supplier, the BCAS website is there to provide a wealth of practical, free advice.  Once you have downloaded the energy reduction guide (https://www.bcas.org.uk/websiteform/reducing-energy-consumption-from-compressed-air-usage-form-8.aspx), use our ‘find a member’ section to source your partner in this energy challenge. All members adhere to our code of conduct, so you can be sure that you are receiving trusted advice.

About BCAS

BCAS is the only UK technical trade association representing manufacturers, distributors and users of compressors, vacuum pumps, pneumatic tools and allied products.

The society actively represents the interests of the compressed air industry to the UK government as well as to many European and other overseas institutions. The society and its members have an active input into all proposed compressed air systems’ energy and environmental legislation and standards through its membership of EURIS taskforce, the European body PNEUROP, and by its association with the prime voice of the EU engineering industry, ORGALIME.

The society’s mission is to be the united voice of the UK compressed air industry, serving as the unbiased authority on technical, educational, promotional and other matters that affect the industry and its customers.

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BCAS reiterates air treatment advice for COVID-19 concerns 11/09/2020

FOLLOWING ONGOING enquiries, the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) is reiterating its advice to compressed air users to adhere to air treatment best practice during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Early in the pandemic there were claims that compressed air may be a potential source of Coronavirus COVID-19, requiring the installation of sterile air filters (or more frequent filter sterilisations and element changes) to prevent the contamination of food, beverage or pharmaceutical products.

At this time, BCAS issued a statement of guidance quoting the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) position that Coronavirus COVID-19 was not an airborne virus.

On 9th July 2020 the WHO updated its guidance to include the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus, stating that: “Short-range aerosol transmission, particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out.

“However, the detailed investigations of these clusters suggest that droplet and fomite transmission could also explain human-to- human transmission within these clusters. Further, the close contact environments of these clusters may have facilitated transmission from a small number of cases to many other people (e.g., superspreading event), especially if hand hygiene was not performed and masks were not used when physical distancing was not maintained.”

BCAS has updated its guidance to include the possibility of airborne/aerosol transmission

BCAS has therefore updated its guidance to include the possibility of airborne/aerosol transmission, but would like to reassure users that this does not impact or change the previously stated advice about the risk and management of Coronavirus in relation to their compressed air system.

The simple facts:

- Compressor rooms are well ventilated.

- There is minimal risk of short-range aerosol transmission at the point of compressor intake.

- At the point of compression, the air temperature is high, the heating time is short and with the compression processes, viruses do not tend to survive.

- During compression, the compressed air temperature is higher than the temperature needed to kill COVID-19. It is documented that heat at 56oC kills the Coronavirus.

- Appropriate downstream purification systems typically treat the compressed air to aerosol sizes significantly smaller than those referenced by the WHO (human generated aerosols <5 micron, good filtration down to <0.01 micron)

- The compressor has two-stage filtration (panel and intake filter) prior to compression. Air is drawn into an air compressor, through panel filters and then through intake filters on its way to the compression chamber. Ambient air contaminants would have to remain in aerosol form to pass through panel and intake filters in order to enter the compressor intake.  This is highly unlikely, but even if panel and intake filtration was compromised, the contaminant would not remain in aerosol form during compression.

Best practice guide 102

BPG102 includes guidance on the installation of appropriate inline coalescing filtration and its regular maintenance, as these will remove multiple contaminants include micro-organisms, oil and water aerosols.

In addition, the guidance recommends using a dewpoint of -40 oC to inhibit the growth of micro-organisms, and filtration to reduce the micro-organisms and particulate.

The specification requires the installation of a minimum of two aerosol reduction filters (down to 0.01mg/m3 of oil aerosol and particle reduction down to 0.01 micron).

These protective measures will ensure that, in the unlikely event that the COVID-19 or other virus still survive the heat of compression, aerosol reduction filters in the compressor room combined with a very low dewpoint and point-of-use dry particulate filters will remove the risk from compressed air.

To see the previous guidance, please visit https://www.bcas.org.uk/article/covid-best-practice-84.aspx.

BPG102 is available for free download from the BCAS website. Visit https://www.bcas.org.uk/websiteform/food-beverage-grade-compressed-air-best-practice-guideline-102-5.aspx

For further information please visit the BCAS website at www.bcas.org.uk or call the technical helpline on 0207 935 2464.

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Are you wasting money AND exposing your employees? 23/10/2020

Fiona McGarry H M Inspector of Health and Safety and Health and Safety Executive lead for engineering and metalworking fluids looks at the issues surrounding the common practice of 'blowing down' metalworking fluids

Simulation of an operator using a compressed airline to remove MWF from a machined component, resulting in personal contamination with MWF droplets. The MWF was dosed with a blue dye, which under an ultra-violet lamp shows up as blue deposits on, left, the end of the arm and upper leg, and right, the upper torso and face

Metalworking fluid (MWF), often referred to as coolant or suds, is used during the machining of metals to provide lubrication and cooling. Compressed air guns (blowguns) are commonly used in the engineering industry for ‘blowing down’ to clean and remove MWF from machined parts and the bed of the machine. This blowing down creates mist/aerosol which can be breathed in by operators and others working in the vicinity.

Inhalation of MWF mist can cause serious lung disease, including occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis. The prosecution of a company after three workers developed debilitating lung conditions is a stark reminder of the need to control the risk. One worker has been so severely affected they have become virtually paralysed, another will never be able to work with MWF again, and a third must have special measures in place to ensure he never comes into contact with MWF. 

MWFs can cause dermatitis through direct contact with unprotected skin, particularly on the hands and forearms, or when MWF contaminates clothing and soaks through. Metalworking machine operatives are in the top five occupations with the highest annual rates of occupational dermatitis. Using compressed air for blowing down, increases the risk of inhaling MWF mist and causes splash contamination of skin and clothing, as can be seen in the photographs. 

The use of compressed air for blowing down also creates a number of safety hazards for those involved. Noise levels are normally high and there is a significant risk of permanent hearing damage from prolonged exposure. There is a risk of compressed air entering the operator's bloodstream, which can result in death. Eye injury including blindness can occur if dust particles or swarf bounce back at the operator.

You should look first to prevent exposure at source, so instead of blowing down components using compressed air guns, you should consider using alternatives. Examples include vacuum guns, absorbent materials, low-pressure coolant guns, spindle-mounted fans or automatic compressed air hoses (operated with computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine enclosure doors shut). Finished components can be cleaned in industrial washing/degreasing machines. The cleaning of machine surfaces using compressed air should be avoided, suitable swarf vacuums should be used to remove wet swarf and chips from machine surfaces.

Reduce exposure

However, where there is no practical alternative to using compressed air guns there are still measures you can take to reduce exposure. You should reduce the exit pressure of the compressed air to as low a level as practicable (as a guide 30psi/2.1bar is effective at cleaning). Different nozzle designs will also allow guns to be operated at a lower pressure and reduce noise levels. 

In addition, you should blow down components inside the CNC machine enclosure with the local exhaust ventilation running or provide a separate enclosure for cleaning purposes. You should also consider using compressed air guns with longer lances (e.g. 30 cm) as this increases the distance from the source of mist and reduces splashing on to the skin.

According to the British Compressed Air Society reducing the operating pressure of blowguns down to 2 bar, from the fixed system pressure of around 7 bar, can reduce operating costs by up to 60%. They suggest you check the operating pressure on all blowguns and discuss with the blowgun manufacturer whether it can operate at a reduced pressure. The pressure can be reduced by fitting pre-set tamper-proof regulators at the take off point from the fixed pipe system. It may be worth considering a separate pressure reduced supply for all blowguns.

Further information  
https://www.hse.gov.uk/engineering/faqs.htm   
https://www.hse.gov.uk/metalworking/index.htm   
https://www.bcas.org.uk/media/Download.aspx?MediaId=67  

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Update on compressed air standards & regulations 23/10/2020

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)

Whereas:

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.

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Compressed air & energy efficiency 23/10/2020

Compressed air is used extensively as a safe and versatile source of power. Often referred to as the fourth utility, manufacturers and processors rely on its availability to power mission critical processes 24/7. However, it is not free and generating compressed air can be very energy intensive, representing between 5-30 per cent of a site’s total electricity bill, asserts Vanda Jones, Executive Director, British Compressed Air Society (BCAS)

According to a report entitled ‘Compressed Air Systems in the European Union’, when looking at the most important energy saving techniques available to compressed air users, ‘the energy savings amount to 32.9 per cent, achievable over a 15-year period.’

The drive to cut energy

Stringent environmental legislation sets limits on carbon emissions, encouraging all users to take steps to reduce their electricity consumption to create a cleaner and greener manufacturing environment.

For example, the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy for meeting the UK’s legally-binding carbon commitments, aims to help businesses decarbonise. Part of the Strategy includes the ‘Industrial Decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency Roadmap Action Plan.’ The action plan will seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become more energy efficient while remaining competitive during the UK’s low carbon transition.’

Yet, while compressed air energy consumption represents a considerable overhead for manufacturers, its performance and efficiency can often be overlooked, and improvement programmes delayed.  This can be counterproductive, because, as illustrated above, there are many simple ways that users can reduce their energy usage, without investing in new capital plant and equipment.

Simple ways to cut energy

The best place to start, when considering upgrading an existing compressed air system, is to speak to an expert. BCAS members can advise on the best equipment and system for your needs. This could include incorporating fixed and variable-speed drives or a combination of both as well as efficient downstream equipment. Where suitable, sophisticated control systems can help proactively manage the supply of air.

Equally, BCAS members can conduct a full system audit and advise on some of the simpler, low cost ways that energy usage and wastage can be reduced.

BCAS’s ‘whole system approach’ article discusses some of the specific ways that users can cut wastage and thereby improve energy performance in more detail, including:

- Fix leaks - Just one 3mm hole could cost over £600 a year in wasted energy. A leak survey can help to size the issue – and to tackle the largest leaks first

- Heat recovery - As much as 95 per cent of the energy consumed by a compressor is converted to to heat and, unless captured, will be wasted to the atmosphere. Many manufacturers offer heat recovery systems, which can often be retrofitted.

- System design - When discussing efficiency and the potential savings that could be realised, it is important to take a full, system approach. – from generation to air treatment to distribution and finally, the point of use.

- Improve control - Reducing pressure at the point of use, switching off compressors when there is no demand for air and installing energy management systems can all help you identify wastage and take action

- Manage air downstream - Excellent savings are achievable be treating all the generated air to the minimum acceptable level and improving the purity (quality) to the desired level at the usage point.

- Behavioural change - You can make substantial efficiency improvements by implementing new processes and encouraging staff to use compressed air more efficiently and safely.

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Taking a whole system approach 23/10/2020

For manufacturers and processors considering upgrading or improving, it is essential to take a full, system approach. Concentating on only one aspect of compressed air generation can reduce the potential for energy savings and users should consider all aspects of system design – from generation to air treatment to distribution and finally, the point of use. Vanda Jones, Executive Director, British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) reports

A compressed air system is just that; a system, and every element of it impacts on its energy consumption.

Identify wastage

An ideal place to start is to identify some of the key areas where compressed air can be wasted.  

For example, even if the most efficient compressor available is installed, but it is connected to a system with a 30 per cent leak rate, then all the benefits are lost.  Operators should aim to improve the overall system efficiency. Efficiency in the generation of compressed air is one aspect but targeting avoidable waste in the system is even more important.

Many actions will require elements of maintenance or equipment/system upgrade, but the human element should not be overlooked. Substantial efficiency improvements can be made by implementing new processes and encouraging staff to use compressed air more efficiently and safely.

Detect and fix leaks

Reducing air leaks can have the biggest impact on overall system efficiency. Leak rates in industrial systems are typically between 20 and 40 per cent, meaning the compressor has to work harder, and therefore consume more energy, to compensate for the pressure loss.

A tiny leak of just three millimetres can cost more than £700 a year in wasted energy, but an out-of-hours survey can identify leaks easily. Opeartors should walk the site listening for leaks and then confirm the location using an ultrasonic leak detector, a leak detection spray or event a soap solution brushed on to pipe fittings.

Once the leaks have been identified,  an improvement programme can be implemented. First, the leaks should be tagged and recorded on a site plan. Next, the leaks should be graded in priority order, fixing the largest leaks first and as soon as practicable.  Finally, it is important to make this a collaborative process by encouraging staff to report leaks as soon as they are discovered.

Once the leaks have been repaired, it is important to check the pressure drop from the compressor to each point of use, as it may be possible to reduce the generation pressure and save further energy.

Air leaks should equally be considered as part of any wider system adjustments. For example, turning down the compressor can have an impact on the performance of air treatment. It is worth taking advice from a reputable supplier or service agent to help determine the demand placed on the compressor to supply the system and therefore its energy consumption.

Switch off

Even when off-load, compressors can consume up to 70 per cent of their full load power, so units should be switched off overnight where there is no demand for air.  The time switch settings should be checked regularly to ensure that running hours are optimised, as this can also help to reduce maintenance costs.

Where appropriate, install energy management systems to turn compressors off when they are not being.

Recover heat

As much as 95 per cent of the energy consumed by a compressor is converted to heat and, unless captured, will be wasted to the atmosphere.  Many manufacturers offer heat recovery systems, which can often be retrofitted. This allows users to recycle this excess heat; re-directing the hot oil to an oil-to-water heat exchanger.

Reduce the pressure

Compressed air is often generated at around 8 bar, (116 psi) even if the point of use only requires 6.5 bar (94 psi).    Turning down the pressure can often help to save energy and therefore, cost.

Pressure drop can also contribute to inefficiencies. This should be less than ten per cent of the compressor’s discharge pressure, as measured from the compressor outlet to the point of use.  Thus at a pressure of 7 bar, the pressure drop should be less than 0.7 bar.

Review compressed air usage

Compressed air is energy intensive to run, and cheaper options exist for certain jobs. For example, there may be more energy-efficient alternatives for drying and ventilation. However, for applications where there are risks of explosion or electrical interference, compressed air remains the best option.

Train and involve staff

BCAS recommends simple awareness sessions to advise staff about the costs and safe use of compressed air. For example, not allowing benches or equipment to be cleaned down with compressed air will save a significant amount of air being vented into the atmosphere.  It is far safer to carry out such cleaning using a vacuum system to reduce the risk of injury.

Optimise compressed air use

If compressed air is appropriate for the job, could it be delivered more efficiently? If air knives feature open-ended pipes, fitting a venturi-type nozzle can use 30 per cent less compressed air. By making the operation much quieter, it will improve the working environment too.

Air distribution network - zoning

Not all parts of the network operate to the same hours or the same pressure, so it is worth separating the compressed air system into zones. At the same time, redundant pipework should be isolated. When replacing piping, consider all the alternatives to the usual galvanised steel.  Aluminium and plastic pipes do not corrode and also have a much smoother internal finish causing less pressure drop and thus saving energy.

Don't over treat air

Treating air to remove dirt, water and oil is necessary but can use a lot of energy. Many processes only need a proportion of the compressed air to be treated to a very high purity. In these cases, excellent savings are achievable be treating all the generated air to the minimum acceptable level and improving the purity (quality) to the desired level at the usage point.

Service and maintain

Low cost, regular maintenance will help retain low leak rates and reliability of equipment.  Users should consider a policy that specifies that energy efficient options are purchased when replacing all equipment – whether it is a basic drain valve through to the actual compressor unit itself.  

Finally, it is important to specify the manufacturer’s genuine spare parts and avoid the temptation of cheaper alternatives, realising significant savings in excess of 25 per cent.

Further reading

BCAS’s Reducing Energy Consumption from Compressed Air Usage’ best practice guide

BCAS’s ‘The Filtration and Drying of Compressed Air’ best practice guide

www.bcas.org.uk

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Working safely with compressed air 23/10/2020

Roy Brooks, Technical Development Officer, British Compressed Air Society (BCAS)

Photo courtesy Atlas Copco

With social distancing now commonplace in our lives, employers are facing ever-increasing scrutiny over their responsibilities to both employees and visitors to their site.

Health and safety in the workplace is now firmly in the spotlight, and as businesses adapt to the challenges of a COVID-secure working environment, it is crucial that other areas are not overlooked in the process.

This is particularly the case when working with compressed air and ensuring that all users know how to work safely and understand the risks involved if good practice is not followed says Roy Brooks, Technical Development Officer for the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS).

It’s all just air, isn’t it?

Compressed air is made from the atmospheric air around us, is invisible, odourless and non-toxic.  In that respect it continues to be a safe and reliable form of energy for numerous industrial applications, but if not used properly it is likely to cause injury.

One of the common challenges that many health and safety managers face is that users can become complacent and overlook the fact most compressed air is pressurised to at least six times atmospheric pressure – and it is this pressurised energy that can create a hazard if not managed properly.

In addition, the noise created by unsilenced compressed air when exhausting to the atmosphere also needs careful consideration to ensure it remains with legal limits.
Eliminating unsafe work practices is essential to improve and maintain the safety in the workplace and users should be encouraged to report any unsafe working practices.

Compressed air and the human body don’t mix!

While health and safety practices continue to improve continually and employees understand their obligations to creating a safe working environment, intentional or accidental misuse of compressed air can occur.

Compressed air injection into the body at any pressure can cause serious injury, or even death, so it is always worth reminding users not to use compressed air to clean off dust or debris from their clothing or skin and to avoid dislodging debris that could cause bodily harm.

Everyone’s responsibility

The Health and Safety at Work act states that an employee must take reasonable care and follow all procedures laid down by his/her employer to create a safe working environment for everyone.

To ensure this is achieved, every employee, through the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations should receive training in order to use compressed air equipment in the correct manner.  While the onus is on the employer to provide adequate training, users should also feel confident that they have received adequate instruction and should not guess or improvise if there is any uncertainty.

Additionally, it is important that the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided to all using compressed air tools, that it is worn correctly and fits properly. Depending on the application, this can include safety goggles/glasses, ear defenders, gloves and face masks.

Equipment types and hazards

There is a wide range of handheld pneumatic equipment and each type has its own associated hazards.  These fall into two groups; where the compressed air drives a motor, e.g. grinders, sanders, nut runners or where the compressed air is used directly through a nozzle, e.g. blow guns, spray guns.

These air powered tools give rise to a number of hazards requiring various items of personal protective equipment to be worn to help protect from noise and vibration, sparks and dust.

Both groups of tools are typically connected to the compressed air supply by a flexible hose, which can also present a range of potential hazards. For example, the connection between the hose and tool or the hose clamp can become loose, through wear of tampering.  Attention should also be paid to quick-release couplings, which may not be pushed home properly or have worked loose through wear,

To help mitigate against this risk, users should check both the hose itself and its connection with the tool for signs of wear and tear before use. For example, rubber hoses may perish over time and crack which could lead to an escape of air.

Frequent use or disconnection can weaken the hose near the tool/air supply, so this should be checked regularly to ensure it remains in sound condition

Hoses should be fitted with the safety mechanisms described and fastened in a safe manner.  If the hose coupling has no exhausting air control, it is worth fitting a slow release exhaust valve or a two-stage disconnect mechanism instead, which are much safer and can reduce the risk of injury from whipping hoses.

Blow gun safety

The end of a blow gun must never be blocked, nor pointed at anyone and should not be used for general cleaning purposes, such as cleaning clothing, especially while being worn, or benches.  Vacuum cleaning is a far safer option.  

Because the gun produces a stream of high energy air from the nozzle it is essential that this is not blocked with a finger or any other part of the body as serious injury could be sustained.

One way to help minimise the risk of injury is to only use blow guns which have some form of safety feature, either a safety-pattern nozzle or a safety mechanism which cuts in if the nozzle becomes blocked. If the blow gun not have a built-in safety feature, then reduce the pressure to 2 bar or 30 PSI gauge pressure. And ensure that safety goggles or glasses are worn at all times.

In conclusion

While the hazard of pressurised energy within compressed air cannot be removed completely, it is possible to reduce the risk of injury.  Encouraging users to report potential dangers and fostering a culture of self-responsibility, can significantly improve workplace safety when working with compressed air.

BCAS training

BCAS offers a dedicated ‘Working Safely with Compressed Air’ course via its new e-learning portal.  The course covers the employer’s and employee’s responsibility for safety in the workplace and outlines why air users must know how to work safely and understand the risks involved if good practice is not followed.

Undertaking this course will help fulfil employers' health and safety obligations and provide evidence, via the online assessment, that the individual has understood safe working practices and their responsibilities.
The hour-long course covers the hazards of compressed air as an energy source, the use of personal protective equipment, employer and employee responsibilities with respect to health and safety when using compressed air and a list of safe working practices to be followed.

For further information about the full range of BCAS training courses on offer, including class-room based training, please email training@bcas.org.uk or call 0207 935 2464.

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