Compressed air technology for F&B industry

The food & beverage industry is a collection of disparate yet interconnected food categories. It comprises all companies involved in processing raw food materials, packaging, and distributing them. This includes fresh, prepared foods as well as packaged foods, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Any product meant for human consumption, aside from pharmaceuticals, passes through this industry. Global market forces are driving the continual evolution of the food and beverage industry. Consolidation, changing consumer preferences, and increasing governmental regulations are dramatically impacting manufacturing and business strategy. To be successful, companies need to focus on brand equity, financial performance, and sustainability.

The food and beverages industry in India is expected to grow at 5.5% CAGR from 2015 to 2017, with estimated output to be around US$23.5 billion.

Demographic shift (particularly trends in population and age, household size, and disposable income) and consumer tastes are the primary demand drivers for this industry vertical. Whereas, good product mix, efficient operations, superior service and effective marketing are the profitability drivers.

The No. 1 priority for food processors is food safety. Six out of 10 food processors say that food safety is the most important issue they face. More than 200 known diseases are transmitted through food. The causes of food-borne illness include viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, metals, and prions. To further strengthen food safety aspects, food and beverage companies have to be compliant with FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act - USA ) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations. Various standards applicable are ISO 22000 (International Standard for Food Safety Management) and HACCP (Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points).

Food and beverage processors are the third largest industrial users of energy, behind petroleum refining and manufacturing of computer and electronic products. The cost of energy for processors ranges from three to 45 per cent of the total cost of production. Cost pressure has also resulted from increased energy prices: 71% of food and beverage manufacturers reported that their total energy costs (across production, distribution, etc.) rose in the previous years. This year is unlikely to offer energy relief, with 76% of companies anticipating that energy costs will increase.

The brewing industry was the first to set standards for quality air in its manufacturing process, which is not surprising since it is one of those sectors, where compressed air is used as active air and comes into direct contact with the end-product. Compressed air is used for operating machines, in fermenting and in bottling. Consequently, high-quality oil-free air is essential.

At what point is air truly oil-free?
The International Standards Organisation (ISO) created air quality classes with ISO standard 8573-1 to help those involved in critical manufacturing processes quantify and compare their air quality standards. The classes are defined in terms of maximum allowable levels of three types of contaminants: (1) particulates (dust/dirt), (2) water/water vapour, and (3) oil and oil vapour.

When originally created in 1991, the standard defined only five classes of air quality. In terms of oil content, the original standard did not include any specifications for oil vapour. Thus, air of the highest quality could still contain a significant amount of oil content in the form of oil vapour. Critical manufacturing industries required a higher standard, so the ISO revised the standard in 2001. The revised standard introduced a new standard for air quality: Class 0. Class 0 is the most stringent class of air quality because it requires air purity to exceed the requirements defined in Class 1. Regarding oil content, the new standard also included oil vapour in its total oil content limitations. This means that Class 0 air is truly 100% oil-free, containing less than 0.01 mg/m³ of total oil content (liquid, aerosol and vapour).

Ingersoll Rand is the first manufacturer to have achieved 100% oil-free Class 0 certification on its entire oil-free rotary screw and centrifugal portfolios thus completely free of oil compressed air by real oil free compressor. Class 0 compressed air is “A wise and safe investment choice.”

Ingersoll Rand, with its oil-free range of Class 0 certified compressors “Sierra” and “Nirvana,” helps the food & beverage industry to improve and maintain the process quality thereby helping to build brand equity and improve the profitability.

“Nirvana” Air Compressor
Nirvana is the world's first true Variable Speed Drive (VSD) compressor. Matching a standard variable speed inverter with a Hybrid Permanent Magnet (HPM) motor, coupled with a time-proven air-end, Nirvana represents a stunning advance in compressor technology. This rotary compressor provides unparalleled energy efficiency at all speeds and offers superb reliability. There are no motor bearings, gears, pulleys, belts, couplings or motor shaft seals to wear out, leak or need replacing. In addition, there is nothing to get out of alignment. Nirvana reduces the operating costs with its dynamic efficiency. It offers truly transcendent technology with Hybrid Permanent Magnet motor, which has revolutionised compressor performance by providing more air over a wider range with no increase in power consumption. Nirvana will produce the most air using the least energy; and will continue to do so down to loads as low as 20%. Nirvana runs at 95% efficiency throughout its entire speed range. Nirvana has fewer rotating parts than any other compressor in its class and offers unmatched reliability. The HPM motor uses no bearings and directly drives the compressor, eliminating gears, pulleys, belts, couplings and motor shaft seals.

Do I need a VFD?
Air compressors typically do not operate at full load on a continuous basis. Our market observations show the average air compressor in a single compressor system operates at 70% of full load volume. The following chart shows a real example:  

A conventional, fixed-speed air compressor is controlled by an inlet control valve that modulates between open and closed positions. But using the inlet valve to meet system air demand results in extreme pressure fluctuations and wasted energy, greatly reducing efficiency whenever the compressor operates outside its optimum performance range.

If the average full load volume point is less than 100%, then it may make sense to evaluate the energy savings of a Nirvana air compressor. Some may also have an air system with multiple air compressors and if it is so, then chances are that energy is being wasted. A Nirvana variable speed drive air compressor could save energy in this situation as well. Using a frequency inverter and the Hybrid Permanent Magnet motor, Nirvana compressors deliver air at a constant pressure, at maximum efficiency across entire operating range, from 100% loaded down to as little as 25% loaded.

Nirvana will reduce the Total Life Cycle Cost
Ingersoll Rand's exclusive VSD makes possible a range of operating characteristics that produce this unequalled energy efficiency. In a conventional air compressor, starting up the motor creates an enormous energy draw, as much as 800% of the full-load normal running current. Nirvana's HPM drive system limits the in-rush current to less than 100%. This significant decrease in starting current requirements minimises peak charges, leading to a lower energy bill. Unlike conventional on-line/off-line air compressors, Nirvana does not blow down. Instead, Nirvana compressors simply reduce speed, and volume, to meet demand. Rather than run unloaded, a Nirvana compressor simply shuts off. And since Nirvana compressors allow unlimited starts per hour with no decrease in motor life, energy savings are exceptionally high. The significant savings that result from Nirvana's low in-rush, unlimited starts and variable speeds contribute to a dramatically reduced cost to own and operate the compressor...a minimum of 16% over its entire life cycle. Nirvana Compressor is available in two stage compression from 37 to 160 kW.

Ingersoll Rand helps improve efficiency and productivity by focussing on how utilities and equipment impact your business results. Our approach links improved food safety, sustainability, lower cost of ownership and higher profitability. Food grade biodegradable oil can also be provided to meet any specific application requirements. In the end, let’s remember that air is free but compressed air is not…!


(Fotedar is product manager, industrial -oil free rotaries; Mehendale is strategic marketing leader; and Suggala is national leader, channel development (direct), compressed air systems and services, Ingersoll Rand ( India) Limited. The author can be contacted at