We recently did a blog post on Summer Preventative Maintenance, (check it out here). One of the key points listed in that post was making sure your oil/water separators are operating properly. So let’s take a look at what an oil/water separator is and why it is so important.
A typical compressed air and gas system can produce a tremendous amount of condensate each year so it’s important to know how to treat oil or water condensate in a compressed air system. This condensate is usually a mixture of condensed water and hydrocarbon vapors. It’s extracted from your compressed air system at various points. The compressor aftercooler, compressed air receiver, compressed air dryer and various line filters. So what do you do with all of this “stuff”? You need to either collect it and pay someone to haul it off or you can treat it and dispose of it properly. Since over 98% of the condensate is pure water it makes sense financially to separate the lubricant from the condensate then dispose of it properly. An Oil/Water Separator will do that for you.
Traditional oil/water separators operate on the basis of using a settling tank and gravity to do the bulk of the separation. Oil is skimmed off the surface and discharged into a separate container for proper disposal and the rest of the condensate, up to 98% of it is sent through a filtration process, usually a bed of carbon. The carbon bag/filter has to be maintained on a regular basis to ensure your discharge water is meeting government regulations in your area. The “settling” tank has to be emptied and cleaned and the carbon bags have to be pre-soaked with water before you install them. Proper sizing is key here due to the variety of synthetic lubricants on the market and fluctuating humidity levels. If a system is not sized correctly, media life is shortened and system back up can occur, spilling oil and making a general mess.
Newer designs of oil-water separators have been coming out recently to make the separation process more environmentally friendly and easier to maintain. Our friends at nano Purification Solutions have a great product that addresses the pain points of a traditional setup. Their design utilizes a unique filtration media that not only outperforms carbon technologies but is also made out of environmentally recycled materials. It’s so efficient that there is no need for oil skimming and collecting. The media is very light and there is no pre-soaking before installing it. You have one discharge port with clean water, down to 5 ppmw or less.
Important Points to Remember:
- Proper disposal of oil/water condensate is required by law
- Separating and treating it on site results in considerable savings
- Employing the latest technology from nano and Lewis Systems gives you peace of mind. (you don’t want the EPA knocking on your door).
During the summer, there are a few extra challenges your compressed air system faces. Heat and humidity can cause all sorts of problems if you don’t prepare your system to adequately address them. Here are a few simple compressed air summer maintenance tips to keep your system running efficiently.
Checking Your Compressed Air System
- Heat Exchangers – Check your after coolers and oil coolers to make sure they are clean and fans are operating correctly. These coolers are your primary defense for keeping your oil temperatures acceptable and removing the bulk of your liquid water from your compressed air system.
- Condensate Drains – With the extra humidity there will be extra water. Check all of your drains and drain lines to ensure they are sized correctly and operating properly. If you are using timer operated drains, you will need to adjust your frequency to allow for the increase in condensate.
- Air Dryers – Both refrigerated and desiccant compressed air dryers need to be checked and prepared for the summer heat and humidity. Condenser coils and condenser fans should be checked on refrigerated dryers. Pre-filters and drains should be checked and serviced on desiccant dryers to protect the desiccant bed from slugs of liquid water and oil.
- Oil/Water Separators – All the water that your drains and dryers are removing should be routed to an Oil/Water Separator. These separators help you safely and legally dispose of your compressed air condensate. Be sure to replace all carbon bags and filters every six months to ensure proper operation.
Lewis Systems & Service Co., Inc. carries a full line of drains, dryers and filters to help your compressed air systems to deal with the heat and humidity that the summer brings. So give us a call if you find yourself “under water” this summer.
Rotary screw air compressors are complicated pieces of machinery and let’s face it, they are not inexpensive. If you look at the total cost of ownership, however, the initial purchase price is minimal compared to the energy cost required over the life of your compressor. Here are a few money saving tips that can help reduce the cost of operating your equipment:
- Change your air filter regularly
- The intake air filter is your first line of defense in protecting your compressor and its lubricant. A dirty, clogged filter element causes loss of efficiency and reduces lubricant life. A clean element will help your compressor run cooler and use less energy.
- Change your oil filter every 1000 hours
- Plain and simple: if you don’t change your oil filter element you’ll do damage to your compressor. This inexpensive part removes dirt and abrasives from the lubricant. When changed regularly, it will extend the life of your lubricant, protect your air/oil separator and reduce wear on your compressor.
- Change your air/oil separator every 4000 hours or at least annually
- If you have oil-flooded rotary screw compressors the air/oil separator provides the final removal of oil from the air stream. Contaminant and particulate build-up in the element will cause pressure drop across the separator to increase. As a rule of thumb, every 2 PSIG increase in pressure drop raises BHP use by 1%. Servicing your air/oil separator will also keep your oil carryover low and reduce lubricant consumption.
- Keep your aftercooler/oil cooler clean
- Check for dirt or particle accumulation on the coolers. As the exterior fin surfaces become clogged, dirty and damaged, your coolers lose their ability to effectively dissipate heat. Increased running temperatures can damage your compressor and reduce the life of synthetic lubricants.
- Oil Analysis
- Synthetic lubricants do a great job of protecting your compressor and holding up in harsh environments. However, they don’t last forever. Take the guesswork out and get professional analysis done regularly. It will tell you if there are any issues. As synthetic lubricants break down they can become corrosive and create varnishes, so being proactive in this area will save a lot of money in the long run. (Lewis Systems offers free analysis on all lubricants that are purchased from us).
These aren’t overly complicated things to do, but they can be overlooked easily. Our Service Team would be happy to help you out with developing a routine maintenance program that fits your needs and budget. Proactive maintenance is a lot less expensive than reactive maintenance.
Problem: Nitrogen gas costs for a prominent peanut and snack foods packager were too high.
Solution: Incorporating the nano GEN2 Series into their compressed air system.
Outcome: Reducing nitrogen gas costs by 83% and improving overall performance. Here’s how it happened.
Application Review – nano GEN2
So what happens when your air compressor goes down? Hopefully, your backup compressor fires right up and your production doesn’t miss a beat. But things don’t always work out that way. At some point in time, you may have to get a rental compressor. Having a rental air compressor plan in place will save you a lot of time and frustration. Here are a few things to think about ahead of time:
- Where would this compressor be installed? Do you have room and easy access in your current compressor room, or will it need to be installed in a remote location of the plant?
- What are your pressure and CFM requirements? Knowing this ahead of time will expedite the process of finding a rental.
- How would you incorporate the rental into your existing compressed air system?
- Will you need an extra hose to connect? If it’s necessary to put the compressor in a remote location, make sure you know how much hose you’ll need to tap in to your plant system.
- You’ll also need extra wire to run power to the compressor. Knowing how much you need will save time.
- Keep air quality in mind as well. If you have to locate the rental away from your other air treatment equipment, consider a dryer and filter to go along with the rental compressor.
- If it’s going to be a long-term rental, be sure to find out up front who is responsible for the routine maintenance and any repairs necessary on the rental.
At Lewis Systems & Service Co., Inc., we have a wide variety of rental compressors available-from reciprocating to large flow oil-free rotary screw compressors. We also have NFPA 99 medical compressed air and vacuum packages available for short – and long-term rentals. Contact us and we’ll be happy to help you out.