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Ashley Quarterman joins BCAS as new executive director designate 13/05/2024

As BCAS' new executive director designate, Ashley Quarterman affirmed his commitment to continuing the Society's ongoing projects

ASHLEY QUARTERMAN has joined the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) as its new executive director designate. He will strengthen the team by working alongside Vanda Jones during a transition period, enabling the Society to continue with its plans and initiatives to help BCAS members provide support and advice to their compressed air and vacuum customers. 

"I am proud to join the British Compressed Air Society and to continue the work that Vanda and the team have been undertaking to improve the support offered to members," said Quarterman.

"BCAS offers tailor-made support, from technical and legislative updates, to training, to an extensive range of business resources - and I will be looking to extend the services we can offer for both our members and end users."

Working in the engineering sector for almost 30 years, Quarterman has both a technical and business development background, managing teams both here in the UK and in other territories including Asia Pacific and the Nordics.  

He has 18 years’ experience of industrial pipework systems in roles at Tyco Fire and Building Products, as business development manager at Parker Hannifin, senior sales manager at Walker Filtration and commercial leader at Ingersoll Rand.

Future plans

Having worked in the industrial sector for many years, Quarterman knows only too well the ongoing challenges of attracting young, engineering talent into the industry.  He will work closely with Steven Rohan, the BCAS president and the BCAS board to continue the Society’s important work around apprenticeships.

His immediate goals are to complete some ongoing projects, such as additions to the popular PSSR and written scheme of examination training, the important work that Terry Collier, the BCAS training and development manager is undertaking around the change to the CSCS card scheme and updates to the Food Grade Best Practice Guide.

Looking ahead

"I am delighted to have Ashley onboard. He is a valuable addition to the team, and we look forward to drawing on his considerable technical and engineering knowledge to benefit our members and compressed air end users," said Steven Rohan, BCAS president. 

"I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Vanda, who will remain a key part of the team during this period of transition and succession planning, for her valuable contribution and support."

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BCAS appoints Terry Collier to further strengthen its training offer 29/02/2024

Terry Collier has been named as BCAS' new learning and development officer, with a focus on further developing the Society's range of training courses

THE BRITISH Compressed Air Society (BCAS) has appointed Terry Collier as its learning and development officer.

"I am an advocate for the possibilities that professional learning and development can deliver and have spent much of my career mentoring individuals to achieve a wide variety of work-based qualifications, including the ILM and NVQ qualification routes," he stated.  

"I am looking forward to the challenge of developing BCAS's existing and proven range of training courses further still, working directly with our members to help deliver the skills and qualifications their teams need to better support their customers."

Collier joins BCAS with significant experience in the delivery of training programmes, gained in a variety of roles within industry and the public sector, most recently as apprenticeship manager at Celsa Steel UK. He is a fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FInstLM), an associate member of CIPD (AssocCIPD) and holds an MBA and a diploma in Human Resource Management.

Focusing on the future

Collier's first area of focus concerns the NVQ requirements for the CSCS card scheme, which is necessary for BCAS members working in the construction sector. In addition, he plans to develop the BCAS Compressed Air and Vacuum Technician apprenticeship scheme further.  

The Scheme was first launched in 2021 in response to demand from BCAS members for a dedicated, industry-approved course that delivers the specific engineering skills required in the compressed air and vacuum industry. The BCAS board, with the support and expertise from Collier, will be working with BCAS members to help achieve suitable apprenticeship funding and to attract engineers into the sector.

With compressed air used so extensively, in applications across the manufacturing sector, keeping pace with changing industry demands is vital. BCAS has long been recognised as a provider of training and development for engineers, technical professionals and users of compressed air. Through its eLearning portal, it is helping to deliver relevant training direct to users.  

Expanding training courses

Collier will therefore work on the development of further training courses to help BCAS members, their employees and customers to keep abreast of the latest changes in the compressed air and vacuum industry - from legislative updates to best practice, to health and safety.  

In conjunction with the ongoing development of new apprenticeships, Collier will also be exploring a new coaching and mentoring course, which will be designed to help BCAS members develop apprentices to their full potential.

"We send a very warm welcome to Terry as he joins the team. The BCAS training portfolio has developed well over the past few years and continues to go from strength to strength," affirmed Vanda Jones, BCAS executive director and company secretary. 

"We look forward to drawing on his extensive experience as we enable the compressed air and vacuum industry to gain valuable skills and qualifications that will uphold standards, help improve health and safety and deliver increased efficiency and performance."

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BCAS appoints Steven Rohan as new president 21/02/2024

As BCAS' 59th president, Rohan said talent acquisition and development would be key focuses during his tenure, with the Society looking to form closer partnerships with the education sector.

THE BRITISH Compressed Air Society (BCAS) has appointed Steven Rohan as its new president. Rohan is the division engineering manager for Parker Gas Separation and Filtration Division - Europe, Middle East and Africa and takes over the role from immediate past president, Mark Ranger from Atlas CopCo.

Driving progress in the compressed air sector

Having held the role of vice president for the past two years, Rohan is keen to build upon the excellent foundations set by the Society's predecessors and to ensure that BCAS continues to play its crucial role in driving progress in the compressed air industry.

"It is an honour to be appointed as the 59th president of BCAS, a society that has been at the forefront of promoting safety and best practice in the compressed air industry for more than 90 years," he stated.

"The world is changing rapidly. We are facing new challenges from the increasing demand for energy efficiency and more cleaner and sustainable technologies. With this comes changing legislation and standards in a post-Brexit regulatory landscape and, BCAS has a key part to play in representing its broad membership and as an independent voice of the compressed air industry.

Building closer partnerships

"To add further value for our membership, during my tenure I will also focus on talent acquisition and development. Our training and development portfolio and qualification programs will be broadened and strengthened, forming closer partnerships with the education sector. This will support the aim to attract more talent to our industry and our members' businesses," Rohan continued. 

As part of the Society's ongoing plans to boost growth, the BCAS team will be strengthened further too. Vanda Jones will continue in post, providing governance and stability while a new executive director is appointed, before continuing in the new role as company secretary.

New appointments in the pipeline

Tim Preece, as technical officer continues to expand the Society's remit in the areas of EU and global standards and legislation, and a new training and development officer will be announced shortly. Frances Marsh also continues in her vital role as society administrator, providing membership support to manufacturer, distributor and end-user members.

"At board level we now have a wealth of experience across the team, with a balance of manufacturer and distribution directors to better represent our membership. This ensures we continue to support all our stakeholders on the issues that matter most to their businesses - whether it's lobbying for changes in legislation to deliver a better outcome for customers, providing guidance on energy reduction or delivering technical training," said Vanda Jones, BCAS executive director.

"It is an exciting time for Steven to be leading the BCAS board and I look forward to working with him to support all our members and compressed air end users."

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Taking an energy-first approach to compressed air system design 08/02/2024

Good compressed air system design can deliver improved energy performance, explains Vanda Jones

WHEN OPERATORS invest in new plant and equipment there can be a tendency to focus on the compressor itself, without considering the complete compressed air system and its impact on energy consumption.  However, it is important to consider all areas of the air supply - not only the point of generation, but downstream and air treatment equipment, pipework and storage.

Focusing on just one area of the system at the expense of others, will mean that other opportunities to save energy could be missed, leading to unnecessary energy usage.

Designing an energy-saving system

With air compression accounting for as much as 10% of all the electricity consumed by industry, the air compressor could be one of the largest energy-consuming systems in the plant. But it’s also important to consider that the usage and design of the system will dictate its overall energy consumption. 

Poor system design, incorrectly dimensioned distribution piping and air treatment (purification) equipment can lead to avoidable pressure loss, so it’s important to factor these areas into the overall system design.

Effective maintenance also has a key part to play in overall system efficiency.  For example, just one 2mm hole in the pipework, could cost over £1,249 per year in wasted energy, so implementing a regime for regularly inspecting, and remedying can help lower operating costs. 

A high leak rate can also cause fluctuations in pressure, resulting in hidden costs such as slower running or even production downtime, not to mention a noisy environment for staff.

Regularly maintaining any ancillary equipment including dryers, filters, and air receivers is also important, alongside checking inlet filters routinely, and replacing where required, before the pressure drop across them becomes significant.

Calculating the system’s annual cost

Before embarking on any compressed air system upgrade to help maximise energy savings, it is important to calculate the system’s total yearly cost. 

Option 1

To calculate the electrical consumption of the compressor, operators will need to obtain the reading by sub-metering the compressor house. This will be in kilowatt hours (kWh).

Option 2

A data logging system will also help to determine the yearly cost of the compressor system. This needs to be installed for a period of at least seven days.

With this system in place, the pattern of demand can be established, otherwise known as a demand profile, and the off-load running time when there is no demand for air. This does not account for the ‘off-load’ power consumption when the compressor is consuming energy without generating air.

Option 3

And finally, option three allows plant engineers to calculate the annual cost of the system by estimating the energy consumption of each air compressor.

The following working example provides a useful guide: a 75kW compressor operates at 7 bar. It is on load for 80 per cent of the production time, which is 2,000 hours per year. Energy consumption of the compressor = 75 x 0.8 x 2,000 = 120,000 kWh/year. If electricity costs £0.1249/kWh, the annual energy cost is £14,988. Should production time increase to 6,000 hours per year, for example, then the annual energy cost would rise to £44,964.

With a range of options available to monitor the annual cost of the air compressor system, it is also important to ensure that alternatives are compared based on 'whole life' cost, not just the initial capital outlay. By opting for equipment that is a higher cost but is more efficient, sites could benefit from both lower running costs and total cost of ownership in the long term.

You can download a free copy of the system design guide at: tinyurl.com/5fh3ydma

Vanda Jones is executive director at BCAS

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Tel: 0207 935 2464

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PSSR - compliant and competent 04/12/2023

THE PRESSURE Systems’ Safety Regulations 2000: S.I.128 (PSSR) provide a complete legal framework to control activities from design to installation, examination and keeping of records to name but a few. While some systems may be exempt from the PSSR regulations, all systems will be subject to at least the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

A Written Scheme of Examination is required for pressure systems 250 bar litres and above, which must be drawn up (and then certified as suitable) by a competent person. 

However, many compressed air system users / owners make changes to the system and neglect to update their scheme. Or they do not fully understand the roles and duties of a 'Competent Person' despite being responsible for the system and its operations. Reflecting this, it's worth taking a fresh look at the key components of a successful scheme.

PSSR - The basics  

According to the latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive, there were 22 fatal injuries to workers in 2021/22, a slight increase on the previous reporting period and around 1.7 times the all industry rate. 

As a result, the HSE states that ‘everybody operating, installing, maintaining, repairing, inspecting and testing pressure equipment should have the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their job safely.’

If pressure equipment fails during operation, it can cause serious injury or damage to property and it is therefore essential that users and owners of compressed air systems are fully abreast and remain compliant with all the requirements of the PSSR regulations, which are designed ultimately to keep installations, and personnel, safe.

Your obligations

When understanding the business’s obligations as a compressed air user, there is an important distinction to be made. The PSSR regulations identify two categories of personnel that are responsible for pressure equipment - 'the user' and 'the owner'.

The 'user' refers to the person or business who has control of the operation of the pressure system or such a vessel. Once a pressure system is installed, the primary duty for compliance rests with the ‘user.’

An 'owner' refers to the person who owns the pressure system or his/her agent and may not be responsible for using the system daily.

The regulations also place duties on designers, manufacturers or any person who supplies equipment intended to be part of a pressure system. This is to ensure that it is fit for purpose, to prevent danger. 

Whether the business or individual is deemed a user or owner under the terms of the PSSR regulations, these issues must be addressed upfront, and the system built to ensure full compliance.

This includes certain legal responsibilities and duties which must be considered. 

For example, before a system can be designed or installed it is the user or owner’s responsibility to ensure that the safe operating limits are specified (and that they are subsequently reviewed and kept up to date).  In addition, the user of an installed system and the owner of a mobile system must ensure that the system is kept properly maintained and in good repair, to prevent danger. 

Keeping the Written Scheme current

A key component of the PSSR regulations is that a Written Scheme of Examination (WSE) is required, as is a process for the periodic examination, reporting and record keeping of pressure systems.  And as previously mentioned, the responsibility for this WSE lies firmly with the business or individual deemed responsible for the system.

This is an important point to make, as BCAS members often comment that a user has made a change to the system but has not subsequently updated or altered the WSE to document this change - remembering that any amendments to the WSE must be signed off by a ‘Competent Person.’

As mentioned previously, the PSSR regulations are created primarily to ensure the safe operation of pressure systems.  Failing to update the WSE in line with any system changes can potentially expose operators to unsafe working practices, so it is vital to factor this important safety consideration into routine administration.

Competent persons 

The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) Safety of Pressure systems (L122) also establishes the persons that are permitted to certify and carry out examinations under a WSE. In both instances, these are referred to as ‘Competent Persons.’

It is often the case that end-users are unsure who has signed off the scheme, or if the person is qualified to do so in law. In general terms, the role and responsibilities of the ‘Competent Person’ can be summarised as follows: 

  • carry out examinations in accordance with the WSE including:
  • review WSE and confirm it is suitable
  • produce a written report for each examination
  • notify user/owner of repairs required
  • identify action in case of imminent danger
  • agree postponements of examination, where appropriate
  • draw up or certify written schemes of examination

An important feature of the in-house competent person is that they should be independent from the operating functions of the organisation, and they must have sufficient authority to stop the use of the pressure equipment should the need arise.

There are three aspects to written schemes 

  1. The drawing up (Regulation 8)
  2. The certifying (Regulation 8)
  3. The examination (Regulation 9)

To be considered a ‘Competent Person’ for the purposes of carrying out the examination or certifying the Written Scheme of Examination, the engineer should have sufficient practical and theoretical knowledge and actual experience of the type of system under examination. This will then enable any defects or weaknesses to be identified and an assessment made of their significance in terms of the integrity and safety of the equipment. 

It is important to remember that where certification of a Written Scheme of Examination is required, the guidance clause 94 and clause 124 state that suitable 'Competent Persons' are qualified to incorporated or chartered engineer level. More information can be found in the BCAS Factsheet 315.

Bringing it all together

The PSSR can be misinterpreted as a complex regulation and therefore may be overlooked by businesses who do not have sufficient time or resource to navigate through the requirements. A few immediate points for you to action

  1. Do you have a WSE Written Scheme of examination?
  2. Do you and the relevant site team know where this scheme is kept? It should be a live and accessible document used to manage your pressure system safety.
  3. When was the last time you audited the scheme?  Is it a true representation of your pressure system and was it prepared after the year 2000 when the new regulation was published?
  4. Who has signed off your WSE? Are they qualified as a ‘Competent Person’ (the definition under the ACOP)

"Queries about the PSSR regulation and its ACOP feature as one of the most frequently asked questions on the BCAS technical helpline. After years as the technical officer for BCAS, I remain disappointed at people’s understanding of this regulation," Preece adds.

Almost daily we are approached by individuals who consider themselves a 'Competent Person' - but it is important that the definition of this term is understood in line with the regulation. 

BCAS and its members would like to see a licencing and regulation system so that a 'Competent Person' is registered along with his/her qualifications protecting system users from well-intentioned but poorly informed individuals. In addition, pressure systems should have their own UK wide database, just like the MOT system for cars, to ensure that amendments are filed, and examinations are undertaken on a timely basis.

BCAS offers a number of training courses, supported by specific factsheets to help guide users through the directive.

The Certificate in Understanding the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulation training course is a blended learning workshop, which covers the written scheme of examination in relation to compressed air systems. It provides knowledge of the Pressure Systems' Safety Regulations (S.I 2000 No 128) and related standards and codes of practice and is designed to provide the understanding required as a user, manager, or provider of written schemes of examination. 

To find out more about the Certificate in Understanding the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulation training course from BCAS and to book a place, please visit tinyurl.com/ycv9r73p​

In addition, the Society has several factsheets available for free download from its website:

Fact Sheet 315 Competent person 

Fact Sheet 314-2 GB Pressure Systems Compliance & Written scheme  

Fact Sheet 306-2 PSSR Compliance & scope

For further information, contact your local BCAS member or email training@bcas.org.uk 


Tel: 0207 935 2464

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Lowering compressed air cost of ownership through maintenance 08/01/2024

COMPRESSED AIR is often referred to as the fourth utility, with the electrical energy used to drive air compressors equating to approximately 10% of all the electricity used in the UK.

When it comes to the cost of owning a compressed air system, operators will be well aware that energy accounts for the biggest ongoing outlay.  But, maintaining the compressor over a potential 10-15-year lifespan will also represent a significant investment - making it of prime importance that the installation is serviced regularly by a competent maintenance professional. There are a range of key areas to consider when planning a compressed air maintenance regime.

As many as 90% of all manufacturing plants use compressed air and in process plants, it is used extensively across the entire production process. Applications range from operating air tools on production lines, to adjusting roller and feed machinery to finishing and packaging with pneumatic devices.

Compressed air is accepted widely as a highly effective and safe form of power/energy for the process industry. However, generating the high-volumes of air demanded by the application can be energy-intensive.

A key challenge for operators therefore is to improve bottom line productivity by reducing overall cost of ownership - and effective compressed air maintenance can play a key role.

Many end users are now considering the total cost of equipment ownership over its entire life, rather than just its initial capital price. And this is important, because over 80% of this cost base can be in the system’s energy consumption and maintenance in the ten years after the initial purchase.

Maintenance is also a vital part of the overall cost base, to keep both the efficiency and whole life costs of a compressed air system down. End users are realising that moving towards regular routine maintenance rather than reactive maintenance is far more cost effective and will help to reduce unplanned downtime.

Intelligent data

In particular, with the continued emphasis on Industry 4.0 and intelligent data, many operators are benefiting from far greater insight into their compressor performance and are implementing predictive maintenance regimes, preventing potential system faults before they even occur.

Another area to consider is the increased uptake of data logging, with many suppliers now auditing the performance of an existing compressed air system in terms of energy consumption, peaks and troughs in demand and areas of inefficiency.  The information obtained can then be used to recommend system improvements - from investing in new, energy-efficient equipment, to heat recovery options or simple upgrades to existing plant.

The current trend towards data exchange and increased automation in manufacturing is a positive move and is providing operators with far greater insight into the performance, and efficiency, of their compressed air system.

Operators are all too aware that electricity accounts for a significant proportion of compressed air cost of ownership and therefore, finding new ways to minimise energy consumption is key.

Typically, this has been achieved by investing in new, energy-efficient machinery but now, with the availability of so much data, operators can realise far greater control over their existing compressor estate; monitoring performance parameters 24/7 if required to ensure the most efficient operation.

Safety first

A vital part of safely and efficiently managing a compressed air system is in the installation, servicing and auditing - all of which have varying amounts of regulation.

Just like other items of industrial equipment, the compressor needs to be installed and maintained correctly to ensure it offers maximum performance and operates safely. 

As a result, BCAS continues to remind all compressed air end users to ensure that their employees are fully trained on the requirements of the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR), and in particular, the importance of the written scheme of examination

Genuine spare parts

A compressor, like any piece of industrial equipment is a machine and all machines experience wear and tear.  At some point component parts will need to either be repaired or replaced.

Therefore, operators should always specify genuine spare parts and avoid the temptation of alternatives which may appear initially to have a lower purchase price, but can affect the running of the machine and its overall efficiency. In the long term, using spare parts that are not designed and tested for the specific machine can result is cost increases in excess of 25%.

It’s also advisable to question the compressor supplier’s policy on spare parts availability and obsolescence, as a compressed air system is a long-term investment and any downtime can be a significant production cost.

End users should therefore take the time to check the credentials of the equipment manufacturer and also of the supplier that will be responsible for maintenance.  In addition, the ongoing availability and the longevity of the spare parts as well as the service levels provided by the maintenance provider are key in the decision making process.

The benefits of improved compressed air system maintenance

  • Optimise compressed air system efficiency
  • Avoid energy losses through downtime and equipment that has been modified from its initial specification with non-genuine components
  • Have confidence that your compressed air system is performing as it should – giving you time to concentrate on other energy-saving measures
  • Avoid unplanned outages and downtime
  • Work with a compressed air service provider to ensure service levels support the business as required

Our top tips

Always use genuine spare parts, rather than alternatives: The time taken to ensure replacement parts are genuine could save thousands in downtime and increased energy consumption.

Include leak detection in the weekly maintenance regime: Fixing just one tiny leak, will stop energy wastage and ultimately save cost.

Monitor and control: Understand how the system is performing, make changes and optimise running hours, for improved electricity consumption. 

Use a BCAS member as a professional service provider: The will have invested in their business via their membership subscription and will have the most up to date information to assist their customers.

For further advice on simple ways to improve compressed air system maintenance, download the BCAS guide: tinyurl.com/25h2cy7w


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BCAS: GB/UK legislation update 27/11/2023

AS THE UK continues to 'move away' from EU membership the landscape is starting to become clearer and the true impact on British industry is impossible to ignore. Double compliance and tracking of both EU and UK regulations and legislation is now a reality.

The announcement on the 1 August this year to extend recognition of CE Marking indefinitely has given some relief and raised many new questions surrounding continuity of supply of goods to the GB Market.

There is an important distinction, here, as 'UK' includes Northern Ireland, where there is still some uncertainty regarding the future direction of goods compliance.  The Windsor Framework and Stormont Brake enable the NI Assembly to temporarily stop any changes to EU goods regulations from applying in NI if the Assembly fears that the changes would have “significant and lasting effects on everyday lives”. 

In addition, the reality of 'passive divergence', where EU regulations are reviewed, developed, adapted and updated by the long-established EU legislative machine, while the UK equivalent has its own timeline and agenda is creating a scenario where there are several differences - so we do still have challenges ahead. 

Seeing that the EU regulation ‘machine’ has significant momentum to evolve regulations and legislation, we still would request that the UK Government works towards some form of permanent mutual recognition to the European compliance activities and allow goods to move freely into the GB market.

Machinery Regulation

One such example of this kind of divergence is the recently (29 June 2023) published Machinery Regulation (EU 2023/1230), which replaces the long standing Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC). This sets out to update the 2006 regulation by including concepts such as paperless supply (except for basic safety information for non-professional users). This could allow documentation to be accessed digitally via a QR code or machine-learning (AI), (particularly where the learning techniques ensure safety functions). 

It also sees a change in the legal status as a regulation doesn’t require transposition into local national law, as directives do. This falls into line with the New Legislative Framework (NLF) which sets out the main rules for market surveillance and conformity assessment bodies. 

Meanwhile, the UK equivalent, the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, which was transposed from the EU Machinery Directive, remains on the UK statute. Although the UK is reviewing product labelling there does not seem to be the required urgency to align or at least have a full-scale review of the new EU Regulation.

Add to this the likelihood of UK based 'Authorised Bodies' having insufficient resource and manpower to actively manage assessment requirements of the diverged legislation and the complexity of the legislation itself, the landscape for UKCA is far from clear.

UK specific work

The UK Product Safety Review consultation has been launched with a three-month window to submit responses (by 24 October 2023). The stated objectives are to ensure that regulation on product safety is fit for the future, especially given the significant rise of online sales in recent years. Details can be found at tinyurl.com/4m5et899 and the 2021 Government response: tinyurl.com/rbbedfuw.

BCAS is of course consulting with members to generate an industry wide, consensus view, whilst also encouraging our members to submit their own responses.

UK Government plans to develop a policy for Energy Requiring Products (ErP), which is a replication of the EU Ecodesign Regulation, are still in development. 
BCAS remains close to the UK governmental team and is working to ensure that the voice of our industry is heard. The society seeks to direct the focus of the consultation toward a system-based approach, rather than focussing on the regulation of products (which, in most cases, are already highly optimised to deliver the best efficiency possible).

Energy Technology List

The Energy Technology List (ETL), which is a government list of energy efficient plant and machinery, has seen the recent addition of compressed air dryer products (refrigerated and desiccant). Compressor manufacturers are currently assessing the possibility of adding air compressors to the scheme. 

Ultimately BCAS’s focus is directed toward establishing the new data sheet and verification programme, which should provide those purchasing new equipment with greater visibility and a more reliable and robust metric to compare the energy efficiency of air compressor packages.

A glimmer of light on the harmonised standards front

The DBT (Department for Business and Trade) says: “The Government has put in place procedures to assess if a new or amended European harmonised standard, developed by the non-EU bodies CEN and CENELEC and put forward by the British Standards Institution (BSI), meets the GB essential requirements of the relevant legislation and is suitable for the purpose of providing a presumption of conformity.”  [CEN and CENELEC are European standards bodies based in Brussels. They are independent of the European Commission, albeit much of its work is related to the EU.  BSI is a member of CEN and CENELEC.]    

“Both users of designated standards and interested parties can consult the Gov.uk website for the latest list of standards for the sector and associated regulations."

BCAS understands that the guidance pages are being updated to accurately reflect the changes announced on 1st August – this is the level of proactivity industry will require to ensure clarity when placing goods on the UK market

With all this activity ongoing it is more important than ever that you remain in touch with the proposed changes and have your say on what could be our new legislative landscape. 

As the independent trade association for the compressed air and vacuum industry, BCAS can provide the most accurate source of information alongside technical experts to enable specific industry queries to be answered.

Tim Preece is technical officer at the British Compressed Air Society


Tel: 0207 935 2464

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The benefits of on-site nitrogen generation 12/12/2023

FROM FOOD packaging and brewing, electronics manufacturing to oil and gas refining, nitrogen is used extensively in numerous process industries. Given this, it's worth exploring the on-going shift from purchasing nitrogen externally to generating guaranteed-purity nitrogen on site using compressed air systems.

Traditionally, customers will purchase nitrogen from a supplier, either as gas in small high-pressure cylinders or in liquid form, stored in mini-tanks or bulk storage vessels.

However, obtaining and maintaining a readily available supply of nitrogen is not without its drawbacks. As well as finding a reliable vendor and arranging deliveries and payment, companies require sufficient space to store the gas; alongside a thorough procedure to monitor and manage the supply safely.

Nitrogen can now be produced easily as a by-product of compressed air generation and many operators are now realising the benefits of using their existing compressor to generate a steady supply of the gas. According to the Industrial Gas Users Association this can lead to cost savings of up to 90% compared to buying nitrogen in cylinders.

A company that currently uses liquid nitrogen can expect an on-site system to pay for itself completely in less than two years, whereas one that buys in gas cylinders could have a payback period of as little as one year.

Generating nitrogen

The heart of the on-site nitrogen generation system lies in the compressor. The process begins with the intake of ambient air, which is then compressed and directed through a series of purification stages, to remove contaminants and moisture. 

Subsequently, the purified compressed air is channelled into a selective membrane or pressure swing adsorption (PSA) unit.  Here, the compressed air is exposed to a material that absorbs the oxygen and other trace gases allowing nitrogen to pass through and exit the system.

Bespoke solutions

Compressed air systems for on-site nitrogen generation can be tailored to specific needs, allowing for precise control over nitrogen purity and flow rates. This ensures that the generated nitrogen meets the exact requirements of the application. This can be particularly beneficial for sectors with varying nitrogen needs, as adjustments can be made quickly and easily.

For example, some industries, such as food and beverage, electronics, and pharmaceutical processing require precise control over the composition of gases used in their processes. On-site nitrogen generation through compressed air systems offers enhanced quality control, as businesses can monitor and adjust the purity of the generated nitrogen in real-time and ensure stringent quality standards are maintained.

Long-term reliability

Compressed air systems designed for nitrogen generation are developed with durability and reliability in mind. Modern systems incorporate advanced technologies that ensure consistent performance over extended periods. Maintenance requirements are generally minimal, and routine upkeep can be integrated easily into existing maintenance schedules. 

Reduction in storage space

Storing nitrogen cylinders or tanks on-site can occupy significant floorspace and present logistical challenges with scheduling deliveries. In contrast, a compressed air-based nitrogen generation system requires minimal space, as it generates the gas on demand.

Not only could this help improve on-site productivity and ease the logistics of gas storage, but with forecasters predicting that energy prices will continue to rise, it could help to mitigate against future supply-chain issues too.


By harnessing this by-product of air compression, companies can not only save on costs but also improve productivity, contribute to sustainability, and secure a reliable supply of nitrogen for their operations.

Operators keen to learn more about on-site nitrogen generation can download a factsheet from the BCAS website or contact their BCAS supplier for further information.


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Setting the standard for compressed air quality 10/01/2024

THE BRITISH Compressed Air Society’s (BCAS) best practice guide entitled The Filtration and Drying of Compressed Air helps operators and specifiers make an informed choice on which type of compressed air treatment equipment is best suited to the air quality required. There are a variety of different compressed air standards that should be considered when assessing the air purity levels required for the application.

Introducing the guide

The guide was produced with the input of leading engineers from BCAS members in the field of air treatment and purification. It is designed to help demystify not only the selection of the correct air treatment equipment but to provide practical advice on which contaminants can be present and their impact on the processes that compressed air is being used for.

It is aimed at typical industrial compressed air applications operating at low pressure, with a range between 7 bar g to 20 bar g.  

Selecting the correct air purity (quality)

Depending on the application for which the compressed air is to be used, there are number of different compressed air standards and best practice guidelines which can assist the end user. 

This is as an important consideration as any oversights as this early specification stage can impact significantly on the quality of the air being used by the process, potentially resulting in product spoilage or production downtime.

Prior to the purchase of new compressed air treatment equipment, the user should assess carefully the air purity (quality) requirements of the system or application. This information should be provided to all suppliers to assist during the product selection and specification.

International standards - ISO8573 series

The ISO8573 series is the most commonly used standard for compressed air (excluding breathing air or medical air). It comprises nine separate parts. Part one refers to air purity (quality), while parts two to nine provide details on the equipment and methodology to be used to measure for different contaminants in a compressed air system.

ISO8573-1 - International standard relating to compressed air purity (quality)

ISO8573-1 provides a methodology for specifying the air purity (quality) required for the entire compressed air system and/or for individual usage points, based upon application requirements. It also allows equipment manufacturers to demonstrate product performance easily and specify purification equipment to meet the end user’s air purity (quality) specification.

In ISO8573-1, compressed air contaminants are grouped into particulate, water and total oil.  Different levels of contamination are then assigned ‘purity (quality) classes.’  

Food grade air

The Food Grade Compressed Air Best Practice Guideline 102 was prepared by BCAS with advice from the British Retail Consortium Trading. It details the HACCP process and enables informed decisions to be made on the type of compressed air equipment that is required, how it should be installed as well as maintained and importantly the requirements for the air purity (quality).

Microbiological contaminants and ISO 8573-7

Microbiological contaminants such as bacteria require water to maintain viability.  To reduce the viability for microbiological contaminants to be present in the compressed air system, it is important that the humidity of the compressed air is reduced.

Typically, adsorption dryers (commonly described as desiccant dryers) provide the highest levels of compressed air dryness and are best suited for reducing the humidity to levels that are low enough to suppress microbiological activity within the system.

Using a test method specified in ISO 8573-7, the presence of microbiological contaminants can be established. The BCAS best practice guideline recommends that compressed air purity (quality) should be tested and verified at least twice per year, unless otherwise identified in the HACCP (Hazard analysis critical control point) process. 

Breathing air

The specified standard for breathable air is EN 12021: 2014 - 'Respiratory protective devices and states that: "Compressed gas for breathing shall not contain contaminants at a concentration which can cause toxic or harmful effects. In any event, all contaminants shall be kept as low as possible and shall be less than one tenth of a national eight hour exposure limit. For breathing air only, the limit shall be less than one sixth of a national eight hour exposure limit. 

For breathing at hyperbaric pressures greater than 10 bar or exposure times greater than eight hours, the levels shall be revised to consider the effects of pressure and exposure times."

BS EN 12021:2014, the UK National Annex NA.4.2, states: "Samples should be taken and analysed at least every three months or more frequently if there has been a change in, or concerns relating to, the production process".

Assisting with the entire specification process

The Filtration and Drying of Compressed Air guide does not only provide guidance on the relevant standards applicable for air purity (quality) assurance, It is also invaluable during the entire specification process, covering all stages of system design; from an overview of the sources of contamination, such as solid particles, water and oil to the extensive range of air purification technologies available and how these operate, including after-cooling, dryers, air receivers, filtration grades and condensate management.

With compressed air energy costs now a major contributing factor to a site’s overall electricity consumption, the guide also focuses on the varying energy efficiencies of the different treatment technologies available as well as guidance on the ongoing maintenance of the system.

A hardback copy or digital download version of the Filtration and Drying of Compressed Air guide can be purchased from the BCAS online shop at: https://elearning.bcas.org.uk/publications/


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Saving compressed air system costs by reducing leaks 01/12/2023

IMPROVING THE energy performance of compressed air systems continues to be a high priority amid soaring electricity prices. In this context, a planned approach to reduce pipework leaks can reduce ownership costs.

In April last year, the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) launched the 10% Taskforce - a call for UK businesses to take simple steps to cut their compressed air energy usage figure by 10%. The campaign has an ambitious target to save over 411 thousand tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of taking 317 thousand cars off the road.  

When BCAS launched the campaign, no one could have predicted the scale of the rise in the wholesale gas and electricity prices. The campaign’s original calculations of £485.43m being spent in wasted electricity have now risen two or even three-fold.

Generating compressed air can be very energy intensive, representing as much as 30% of a site’s total electricity bill. According to a report entitled 'Compressed Air Systems in the European Union', when looking at the most important energy savings techniques available to compressed air users, "the energy savings amount to 32.9%, achievable over a 15-year period".

Therefore, since the launch, BCAS members have been speaking with customers to encourage them to act and to dispel some of the commonly held beliefs that saving energy will require significant investment in new capital equipment.

In particular, the Society is advocating small, incremental steps and demonstrating the significant impact these can have on reducing energy consumption.  

One of the key areas that can help avoid wasteful practices is to fix air pipework leaks and implement a regular monitoring procedure.

Why fix leaks?

All compressed air systems experience leaks and in the past this may have been ignored, as they either pose no immediate health and safety concerns, or the cost of repair outweighs the energy savings achievable. However, the current climate means that users are much more aware of the energy which is being wasted and the costly effects of leaking air. 

BCAS members are reporting that where they have performed energy audits in the past, and the survey did not recommend any action was required, these are now worth revisiting. The rising energy costs have brought these surveys back into focus as providing viable maintenance actions.

One 2mm hole in the pipework could cost over £1,249 per year in wasted energy, and so it’s more important than ever to take measures to reduce air leaks. 

Source of the leak

There a four common leak sources to be aware of, these include: 

  • Air-using equipment left running when not required
  • Manual condensate drain valves left open
  • Leaking hoses and couplings
  • Leaking pipes and pipe joints

It is important to check these areas regularly, as leaks need to be monitored constantly. It is recommended that operators conduct a leak survey at least twice a year, to keep abreast of any changes or modifications required to the system.

Under pressure

When pressure drops in the system it means the generating pressure is set much higher than necessary. To resolve this issue, engineers should start by identifying where the pressure drop originates and take action to fix the cause and regulate the pressure. 

The issue of a drop in pressure could be due to: 

  • Leaks
  • System component constrictions (e.g. valves, bends) 
  • Undersized piping 
  • Pipework installation (e.g. no ring main) 
  • Aged pipework with increased friction

Identify the leak 

As air leaks aren’t hazardous to health and safety, it is easy to become complacent if there is a small leak. However, as mentioned a small leak can have significant effects on energy usage, so it is important to take action.

A simple place to begin is to conduct an out-of-hours survey and to walk the site listening for any leaks - it should be easy to hear any leaks when the site is quiet. 

Following the survey, a leak management programme can be implemented, marking the leaks, recording them on a site plan and grading the priorities, such as fixing the largest leak first. 

Finally, users should be encouraged to report leaks so they can be identified and repaired as soon as possible. 

Pressure reduction

Once any leaks have been repaired, then it’s advised to discuss with the supplier about reducing the generation pressure at the compressor. Understanding the system pressure is critical when it comes to leakage reduction and reducing energy usage. 

Fixing a leak will increase the pressure of air. This can not only have an impact on the system’s energy consumption, but also put any projected savings at risk. 

The pressure drop should be less than 10% of the compressor’s discharge pressure, as measured from the compressor outlet to the point of use. 

If one section of the plant requires much lower pressure, it is recommended to run a dedicated low-pressure compressor or to regulate the pressure down that line. 

When it comes to the energy used, on average it is found that for every 1 bar g additional generation pressure there is a loss of 7% in specific energy. And so, keeping pressure low can help to reduce operating costs. 

Zone out 

The design and installation of the pipework can help with saving energy and so when considering leak reduction measures, it’s important to consider the pipework currently in place. 

The following are examples of how sites can alter the pipework to be more efficient:

  • Spilt the system into zones and pressurise each as required
  • Remove or isolate redundant piping
  • Use vales to isolate parts of the distribution network
  • Select large radius bends instead of elbows
  • Support piping to minimise movement and sagging to reduce leaks and build-up of fluid
  • Replace older pipework with modern materials to reduce friction

Not all parts of the network operate to the same hours or pressure and so it is possible to save energy by zoning the compressed air system. 

For more information, please speak to a BCAS member who can assist in this area by emailing enquiries@bcas.org.uk. And you can download a free copy of the leak-fixing guide here: tinyurl.com/327ywa4z


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