Optimising our compressed air consumption to improve our energy efficiency

Compressed air is used across a multitude of industries. At Pelta Medical Papers, it is something we rely on to operate much of the machinery we use to produce our wide range of medical and speciality paper products. In fact, compressed air is so important that many consider it a utility as significant as electricity, water, or natural gas.

Unfortunately, compressed air is also an expensive utility to produce. Here at our Beetham mill, we spend tens of thousands of pounds to generate the compressed air that is required for our medical packaging solutions, and lots of this air goes unused. In fact, we estimated that nearly half of all our compressed air is wasted.

Back in January 2022, a team was set up by Mark O’Shaughnessy to look at potential energy savings around our compressed air plant, the team consisted of the Engineering dept led by Graeme Crayston and the Environmental dept. led by Amy Kitching. The experienced team was tasked with reducing air consumption which would translate into cost savings via energy conservation.

To establish a baseline, the team calculated the cost of air production; by gathering initial measurements of energy. The team worked with Lakeland Fluid Power a compressed air specialist company that carried out a month-long energy survey to ascertain the difference in air consumption during full production compared with a week-four shutdown period.

The results of this survey were quite astounding: Fluid power could not discern any difference in air consumption between the two periods. The only conclusion from this was that our air compressors were servicing lots of air leaks.

Initial calculations showed that our compressed air system was consuming far too much electricity. This gave the team plenty of scope to realise some immense potential savings as “half of all our compressed air is wasted”.

March 2022 saw an intensive program of air leak detection and repair commence, and this has been continued throughout the year during every week four period. After each week four; further measurements were taken to ascertain the extent of the reduction in air consumption, which was then translated into energy & cost savings.

During the period from March 1st to December 30th, energy consumption was reduced by over 30% - a truly remarkable result. However, we believe there is still more to achieve with the air leak program ongoing, coupled with the desire to use more air-efficient technology going forward; to further reduce our reliance on compressed air.

This hugely positive outcome is just one of many as we continue to develop our ESG agenda and improve our energy efficiency through a number of projects at Pelta Medical Papers. Read more about our efforts to become more eco-friendly, including how we have improved our carbon footprint by moving our warehouse needs closer to home, and our recent success in joining the UN Global Compact.