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Compressed Air:

Compressed air is air kept under a pressure that is greater than atmospheric pressure. Compressor is
the device used to compress the air. Compressors are classified as Dynamic and Positive displacement

The output of compressor is generally categorized as service air and instrument air.

Applications of compressed air:

 Service air is used generally for cleaning and other maintenance activities.
 Instrument air is used for
o The use of sensors to determine the status of processes
o Information processing
o Switching of actuators by means of final control elements

Required properties of Instrument air:

 Air should be free from moisture.

 Air temperature should be almost equal to ambient temperature.
 Pressure and air flow should be continuous.

Energy related notes:

 Every 4OC drop in inlet air temperature results in lower energy consumption by 1% to achieve an
equivalent output.
 For every 250mmwc pressure drop increase across the suction path due to chocked filters etc,
the compressor power increases by about 2% for the same output.
 An increase of 5.5OC in the inlet air temperature to the second stage results in a 2% increase in
specific energy consumption.
 A reduction in delivery pressure by 1 bar in a compressor would reduce the power consumption
by 6-10%.

Compressed Air System:

Compressed air system consist of following major components: Intake filters, inter-stage coolers, after
coolers, air dryers, moisture drain traps, receivers, piping network, filters, regulators and lubricators

Typical Compressed air system components and Piping Network

 Intake Air Filters: Prevent dust from entering compressor; Dust causes sticking valves, scoured
cylinders, excessive wear etc.
 Inter-stage Coolers: Reduce the temperature of the air before it enters the next stage to reduce
the work of compression and increase efficiency. They are normally water-cooled.
 After Coolers: The objective is to remove the moisture in the air by reducing the temperature in
a water-cooled heat exchanger.
 Air-dryers: The remaining traces of moisture after after-cooler are removed using air dryers, as
air for instrument and pneumatic equipment has to be relatively free of any moisture. The
moisture is removed by using adsorbents like silica gel /activated carbon, or refrigerant dryers,
or heat of compression dryers.
 Moisture Drain Traps: Moisture drain traps are used for removal of moisture in the compressed
air. These traps resemble steam traps. Various types of traps used are manual drain cocks, timer
based / automatic drain valves etc.
 Receivers: Air receivers are provided as storage and smoothening pulsating air output - reducing
pressure variations from the compressor

Moisture in Instrument air?

Moisture in Instrument air is technically termed as Dew Point. Dew point is a moisture parameter that
we measure in vapor form. Dew point is the temperature to which air must be cooled for water vapor in
it to condense into dew or frost.
Air compression increases water vapor pressure and thus dew point. Rule of Thumb:
 As pressure increases, dew point temperature rises, air becomes more moist (RH increases)
 As pressure decreases, dew point temperature goes lower, air becomes drier (RH decreases)
How moisture in air is harmful?
Moisture in pressurized air is problematic because it causes blockages in pipes, corrosion, machinery
breakdowns, contamination and freezing. As air is the only medium which operates control valves, vane
controllers which play important role in process safety. If air going to that equipment is clogged it results
in process failure.
Air compression increases water vapor pressure and thus dew point.

Air compression increases vapor pressure and thus dew point

 At ambient air (1 bar) dew point +3°C means 7.6 mbar
 Air compression e.g. to 2 bar doubles vapor pressure to 15.2 mbar, which means dew point
 If same air is compressed to 7 bar vapor pressure would increase to 53.2 mbar -> calculated dew
point +33.7°C, which at ambient temperature means condensation.

What is the difference between dew point and “pressure dew point?”
The term “pressure dew point” is encountered when measuring the dew point temperature of gases at
pressures higher than atmospheric pressure. It refers to the dew point temperature of a gas under
pressure. This is important because changing the pressure of a gas changes the dew point temperature
of the gas.

What is the effect of pressure on dew point?

Increasing the pressure of a gas increases the dew point temperature of the gas. Consider an example of
air at atmospheric pressure of 1013.3 mbar with a dew point temperature of -10 °C (14 °F). From the
table above, the partial pressure of water vapor (designated by the symbol “e”) is 2.8 mbar. If this air is
compressed and the total pressure is doubled to 2026.6 mbar, then according to Dalton’s law, the
partial pressure of water vapor, e, is also doubled to the value of 5.6 mbar. The dew point temperature
corresponding to 5.6 mbar is approximately -1 °C (30 °F), so it is clear that increasing the pressure of the
air has also increased the dew point temperature of the air. Conversely, expanding a compressed gas to
atmospheric pressure decreases the partial pressures of all of the component gases, including water
vapor, and therefore decreases the dew point temperature of the gas.

Why is knowledge of dew point in compressed air important?

The importance of dew point temperature in compressed air depends on the intended use of the air. In
many cases dew point is not critical (portable compressors for pneumatic tools, gas station tire filling
systems, etc.). In some cases, dew point is important only because the pipes that carry the air are
exposed to freezing temperatures, where a high dew point could result in freezing and blockage of the
pipes. In many modern factories, compressed air is used to operate a variety of equipment, some of
which may malfunction if condensation forms on internal parts. Certain water sensitive processes (e.g.
paint spraying) that requires compressed air may have specific dryness specifications.

What is the typical range of dew point temperatures to be found in compressed air?
Dew point temperatures in compressed air range from ambient down to -80 °C (-112 °F), sometimes
lower in special cases. Compressor systems without air drying capability tend to produce compressed air
that is saturated at ambient temperature. Systems with refrigerant dryers pass the compressed air
through some sort of cooled heat exchanger, causing water to condense out of the air stream. These
systems typically produce air with a dew point no lower than 5 °C (41°F). Desiccant drying systems
absorb water vapor from the air stream and can produce air with a dew point of -40 °C (-40 °F) and drier
if required.

What are the standards for the quality of compressed air?

ISO8573.1 is an international standard that specifies the quality of compressed air. The standard defines
limits for three categories of air quality:
• Maximum particle size for any remaining particles
• Maximum allowable dew point temperature
• Maximum remaining oil content
Each category is given a quality class number between 1 and 6 according to the reference values shown
in the table below. As an example, a system that conforms to ISO8573.1 and is rated for class 1.1.1 will
provide air with a dew point no higher than -70 °C (-94 °F). All remaining particles in the air will be 0.1
μm or smaller, and the maximum oil content will be 0.01 mg/m3. There are other standards for
compressed air quality, such as ANSI/ISA- 7.0.01-1996 for instrument air.
ANSI/ISA- 7.0.01-1996 for instrument air
Air Dryers
The atmospheric air has certain amount of moisture. The moisture holding capacity of air depends on
ambient temperature. Higher the temperature is the moisture holding capacity of air in the form of
water vapor and vice versa. Saturated air at a given temperature is the air that contains the maximum
amount of water in the form of water vapor. Any excess water vapor will be condensed in the form of
About 60 to 75% amount of moisture in compressed air is removed at the after cooler. This is sufficient
for many plant applications such as cleaning, atomization etc. As the compressed air leaves after cooler
and passes through compressed air lines, the temperature of air reduces and results in condensation.
Most commonly used dryers in the industry are:
1. Refrigerant type and
2. Adsorption type
a. Blower activated type
b. Heatless purge type
c. Heat of compression type

Refrigerant dryer

The system is of straight mechanical refrigeration in

which the dew point is reduced by chilling.
This system consists of a refrigeration unit and two
shell and tube assemblies
In first shell and tube assembly 100% saturated air from
the compressor outlet enters the shell and tube
contains chilled air.
In the second shell first shell out let air enters the shell
and tubes contain refrigerant.
100% saturated air from compressor is cooled by the
outlet air from the second shell and enters the shell
with refrigeration unit where its moisture will be
condensed and drained.
Adsorption Drying
Drying compressed air by adsorption is purely a physical process. The moisture is bound to the drying
agent by force of adhesion (unbalanced molecular attraction). The moisture stays on the inner and outer
surfaces of adsorption material without a chemical reaction taking place. The adsorption material has
porous structure and large inner surface. The most common used adsorption materials are activated
alumina and silica gel.

Operating Procedure:

During the drying process moist air passes through

an adsorption tank. The moisture is bound, which
dries the compressed air. The adsorption material
must be regenerated when the adhesive forces are
balanced by the water droplets. This means the
water must be removed from the adsorption
material. For this reason there must be second
parallel drying tank to maintain continuous drying
operation. The active tank A in fig. dries the
compressed air while the tank B without pressure
will be regenerated. Based on the method of
regeneration the adsorption driers are classified
i. Blower reactivated type dryer
ii. Heatless purge type dryer
iii. Heat of compression dryer

Blower Reactivated type dryer

A blower and heater are used to achieve regenerating


These dryers are generally used for the capacities more

than 250 CFM.

The operating cost is high because of heater and purge

losses are of about 1-2%

Blower Reactivated type Blower

Heatless Purge Type Dryer

The operating principle of this type is similar to blower

reactivated type. The only difference there is no
heating of desiccant is done.

These are used for the capacities lower than 250 CFM.

The operating is very high due to purge losses of 12-


Heatless Purge type dryer

Heat of Compression (HOC) Dryer

These dryers are available from 400 to 5000 CFM


The specialty of this dryer is air for regeneration is

taken before after cooler in the compressor which is at

Therefore there are no purge losses and electricity cost.

Heat of Compression Dryer


Reasons for the moist instrument air in downstream of Instrument Air Drier:

High inlet air temperature: Air increases its affinity to hold moisture when it is at high temperature than
ambient. If the air enters the drier with high temperature as the moisture content in the air is more the
silica gel of the drier will be over loaded to perform. This results in moisture at the outlet of air drier.

Improper Cooling: The purpose of the cooler at the outlet of drier is to remove moisture from the air. If
the water flow through the cooler is improper or if the tube of the cooler is leaking it results in the
moisture at the outlet of air drier.

Drain Failure: A typical compressed air dryer system will produce 10 gallons of water per day per 100
SCFM. So installation of dependable condensate drain valves is not a luxury, but a necessity. 80% of this
moisture is removed at the moisture separator installed after the air cooled after-cooler. A drain valve
failure here guarantees that the compressed air dryer will be flooded and that liquid water will be
pushed further downstream. Healthy moisture traps makes the drier system healthy.

Aging of the equipment: Every equipment deteriorates with the age i.e., increase in the clearances,
rusting of the equipment. These will have effect on the performance of the drier.
Depending on the air compressor specifications Air driers are installed, if there is any deviation of air
compressor it also effect the performance of Air drier.