Compressed air: leaks and inefficiency putting a hole in manufacturing profits

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Media Release

A new report details the enormous amounts of energy being wasted in manufacturing across a range of sectors as the result of inefficient and leaking compressed air systems (CAS) and highlights the potential of emerging alternative technologies.

While accounting for 16% of electricity use at typical manufacturing sites and 10% of total industrial electricity use, research by Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) reveals that 80-90% of the energy used to power CAS is being wasted.

A2EP was engaged by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) to assess the successful CAS pilot offer made available to NSW manufacturers in 2020. A2EP reviewed 10 on-site CAS assessments conducted under the offer and collaborated with DPIE to review the results from more 40 surveys completed by participating NSW manufacturers.

While compressed air has been considered potentially inefficient, the analysis of the offer revealed the extent of the waste and subsequent impacts the on productivity and costs for manufacturing as a whole.

Lead author of the report, Alan Pears AM, noted the misconception about CAS energy use that the results illustrated.

“I think many people would be surprised to learn that energy consumption contributes around 80% of overall CAS lifetime costs, about ten times as much as maintenance,” said Mr Pears.

“There was also low awareness of the enormous benefits of emerging smart electric alternatives to compressed air. Savings of 80% on energy are often possible but, more importantly, their precision, speed and data sharing capabilities offer businesses profit and productivity potential worth far more than the impressive amounts of energy they save.”

The research found that obstacles to optimising the efficiency of CAS were just as consistent and significant as the energy waste occurring.

“A lack of effective monitoring and common organisational energy goals prevent businesses from dealing with and optimising their compressed air systems,” said Jarrod Leak, CEO of A2EP.

“It’s a classic tragedy of the commons situation in a lot of companies with departmental silos and cost centres preventing action: those who incur the cost and deal with the inefficiency don’t get to enjoy all the benefits, so there is little incentive to act.

“We’re pleased that this report not only details the obstacles, but it also sets out steps and strategies for businesses to improve their CAS efficiency and to improve performance across industry.”

The report is being launched on Thursday 29 April at 2.00 pm AEST during a webinar hosted in partnership with the Australian Industry Group on addressing compressed air efficiency in industry.