A new standard, ISO 11011:2013, defines requirements for conducting and reporting the results of a compressed air system assessment. Stephen Boults, capital equipment manager at Thorite (01274 66347), explains all to Andrew Allcock, with the British Compressed Air Society also contributing
Q: What is ISO 11011:2013? When was it published?
A: ISO 11011:2013 is an international standard for compressed air efficiency assessment, first published in September 2013.
Q: Why was it created and what is its intended aim?
A: A number of ISO member countries have performed work in the energy audit field and have included compressed air systems. One such example of this work is America's ASME EA-4, on which the new standard draws, in fact.
And ISO 11011:2013 complements ISO 50001 'Energy management systems – Requirements with guidance for use'. So the new standard is not intended to replace existing compressed air assessment activities, but rather should be seen as containing a framework for the assessment/audit process that then dovetails with specific requirements in a country. The standard's aim is, quite simply, to help businesses using compressed air reduce energy costs.
Q: Why is this aim important?
A: It's well known that 10% of all electricity consumed in the UK is used to generate compressed air, while an unmanaged system easily wastes 30-40% of this cost through leakage or inefficient air use. People are surprised at how a free element like the air we breathe becomes so expensive once it's compressed – and amazed that the leak from a single 3 mm hole in pipework can cost over £2,000 per year in wasted energy.
Q: How does/will this standard improve on previous practice?
A: Prior to this standard, assessments undertaken by different parties were not made along identical lines. The standard now sets the requirements for analysing data, assessing the findings and projecting the savings. This ensures the information the customer receives is fully accurate and consistent between assessors.
Q: Who can offer audits in accordance with the standard – anybody?
A: Assessment personnel should be fully competent on the basis of appropriate education, training, skills and experience. A minimum of five years' professional experience, including practical and theoretical training in the planning and design of compressed air systems, is required.
Q: What could the broad application of audits in accordance with this standard mean to industry in the UK at large?
A: In effect, it's a benchmark that ensures the information and projected savings are accurate, allowing sensible decisions to be based on the findings. Too often claims have been overstated to achieve business, with no follow-up measurements being carried out.
Q: And for individual small, medium and large consumers of compressed air, what are the likely benefits of acting on an assessment made in accordance with the standard?
A: A: For small businesses, it's about saving money by reducing electricity costs. For larger businesses, the additional benefit would be a reduction in carbon emissions, helping achieve targets that may be in place.
Q: If I am interested in an audit, what do I do, who do I contact, how much does it cost?
A: Interested parties should only contact specialist pneumatic system supply organisations, of which Thorite is one. Cost is dependent on the size of the compressed air system. A large system with multiple compressors will cost more than a small system, but savings should ensure a quick payback, even if it's just through leakage repairs, which is a low-cost investment.
Q: And after the audit, what are my options? Must I take action?
A: After the audit, it will be apparent which problems should be tackled first. There is no legal requirement to act on the findings, but to achieve the projected target of energy reduction the recommended actions will need to be taken.
Q: Is there any support available for investment in more efficient compressors and related distribution/demand systems? If so, where from?
A: Support is available via the government's 'Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme' that promotes the purchase of energy-efficient equipment – www.eca.gov.uk.
Q: How has the new standard and the audit process it defines been received by compressed air users?
A: The majority of compressed air users are unaware of ISO 11011 and why it was introduced. Those that are appear to be very interested in the assessment, although paying for something that was previously offered by suppliers free of charge, albeit to set standards and thus with no guarantee of accuracy, is the major hurdle to overcome.
Author: Andrew Allcock