We have been enjoying nice weather in Europe for a good few weeks now: the sun is shining and temperatures are rising. As far as many industrial environments are concerned, this means “all hands on deck”. It can be difficult for a number of installations to remain operational at higher temperatures. But what effect does the ambient temperature actually have on your compressor and compressed air installation?

 

1. More water and oil in your compressor installation and product

Higher ambient temperatures have an effect on the amount of moisture in the air drawn into the installation. For example, there is more than twice as much moisture in the air at 35°C (max. 40 gr/m³) than there is at 20°C (max. 17 gr/m³). It is therefore essential that the installation is in perfect condition and connected to the right type of dryer.

 

Air conditioning or no air conditioning?

Air conditioning does not guarantee a solution to higher ambient temperatures. As the compressed air pipes from the warm compressor room enter this cool environment, it is inevitable that condensation will form in the pipes if the dryer is not functioning correctly, resulting in water in the pipes.

And certainly in the case of air-cooled installations, the temperature of compressed air increases significantly, up to 50°C or more. This has an adverse effect on the amount of oil transferred in oil-lubricated compressors, meaning that more oil vapors are formed. Standard filters, which usually specify a filter capacity based on a reference compressed air temperature of 20°C, barely remove these vapors.

 

2. Compressors subjected to higher loads

In a number of industrial processes, the compressed air capacity is specified in Normal cubic meters (Nm³) at a reference temperature of 0°C. This reference indicates the number of molecules in 1 Nm³, which is important when using air separation units or during chemical processes.

When the compressor draws in ambient air at a significantly higher ambient temperature, the installation has to work harder (i.e. more rotations/loaded hours) to produce the same quantity in Nm³. Think of it as a balloon that you have inflated. Leave it in the sun and it will expand; leave it in a refrigerator and it will shrink. To produce the same volume, you would have to inflate more balloons in the sun.

Experience has taught us that it does not take long for many compressor rooms to reach temperatures of up to 50°C during the summer months. If the compressor does not have a separate intake channel, it will have to work nearly 15% harder to achieve the same amount in Nm³ than when drawing in air at a temperature of 20°C. In addition, the cooling efficiency of an air-cooled installation decreases at higher ambient temperatures, which means that air has to be extracted from the installation. It is therefore hardly any wonder that it is difficult to operate many installations at higher temperatures.

 

3. Saturated and dirty filters

In springtime, nature is in bloom, and even compressors and refrigerating equipment suffer due to tree and grass pollen. When this pollen is drawn into the installation, the nominal capacity of the installed cooling equipment decreases substantially. The combination of this and the increased amount of water and oil in the compressed air puts a lot of strain on the compressed air filters.

For this reason, you should consider the maintenance intervals of your filter installation. Failing to do so will mean that there is a serious risk of your filter failing, with undesirable consequences for your end product. Luckily, there are special indicators (dP) that let you know when a filter is saturated. However, for some filters, such as active carbon filters, this is not the case and the filter capacity will be completely negated if the filter is saturated.

 

If disaster strikes your compressed air installation during the summer despite all of your precautions, we at Atlas Copco Rental are here to you help you 24/7.

Michel Jasica

Michel Jasica

Manager Offshore - North Sea region at Atlas Copco Rental Europe
Michel Jasica, working for almost 20 years for Atlas Copco. Today I'm Manager for the Offshore Rental business for NorthSea region and Regional Manager Nordic countries for Atlas Copco Rental (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark). We rent total solution concepts related to Compressed air, Nitrogen, Steam and Power generation used in Industrial & Offshore applications.
Michel Jasica