Astrum foundry halves energy costs with Variable speed compressors 07 April 2011

Two regulated-speed compressors are helping steel components maker Astrum to halve compressed air energy costs, while also increasing productivity.

The improvements are being achieved at Astrum's Stanhope, County Durham foundry, and operations director Mike Hutchinson says it's been a crucial development.

"One of our key areas of spend is compressed air, which is critical to the performance of our plant and fundamental to our processes for moving sand around the foundry and operating industrial equipment," he explains.

Hutchinson approached CompAir distributor Air Energy Management to reassess its air requirements, as part of Astrum's energy efficiency programme.

Having established significant potential, the firm developed a bespoke system to reduce demand, and replaced old, large compressors with two, more efficient and smaller CompAir compressors and energy efficient thermal mass refrigerant and desiccant dryers.

The CompAir L75 RS and L160 RS compressors both use regulated-speed technology and are protected and monitored by a Delcos 3100 electronic control system.

Both are also linked to a flow measuring system, allowing operators to check airflow, allocate costs and pinpoint any leakages. But the bottom line is compressed air energy demand reduced by 1,255,000 kWh – saving over £80,000 per annum.

Hutchinson also says that the Carbon Trust provided an interest-free loan through the Big Business Refit scheme. "The loan will pay for itself within four years, through energy savings alone, and has provided a cost effective way for us to upgrade crucial equipment," he states.

And talking of energy- and emissions-saving, both compressors also vent hot air into the foundry during winter, and out into the atmosphere in the summer, so allowing Astrum to turn off heaters, saving a further £10,000 per year in diesel costs.

Incidentally, the number of air receivers at the Astrum site has been slashed from 16 to just three, thanks to more efficient use in the new system. Further, CompAir also supplied a desiccant dryer, providing the extra dry air required by a moulding machine.

The new system also includes low-pressure drop piping, and a leak detection programme. A flow measuring system brings information from all meters into one control panel, allowing operators to check airflow, allocate costs to different departments and pinpoint any leakage.

Brian Tinham

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