Compressed Air Market Assessment

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), with technical support furnished by the Compressed Air Challenge® (CAC), recently created the Assessment of the Market for Compressed Air Efficiency ServicesPDF, June 2001, for the Energy Efficiency Services. The assessment provides a comprehensive view of the market for engineering and consulting services to improve the energy efficiency of plant compressed air systems. These services include plant assessments to identify improvement opportunities for compressed air systems, preventive maintenance services, and redesign of system components to reduce energy use.

    Compressed air systems account for 10% of all electricity and roughly 16% of U.S. industrial motor system energy use. Seventy percent of all manufacturing facilities in the United States use compressed air to drive a variety of equipment.

    More than half of industrial plant air systems have large energy savings opportunities with relatively low project costs. In small- to medium-sized industrial facilities, approximately 15% of compressed air system usage can be saved with simple paybacks of less than 2 years. In larger facilities, these savings could range from 30%-60% of current system usage. In addition to energy benefits, optimized compressed air systems frequently offer corresponding improvements in system reliability, product quality, and overall productivity.

    DOE's compressed air assessment project sought to answer a number of key questions concerning the demand and supply sides of the market for compressed air efficiency services. Participants in the assessment included 91 compressed air equipment distributors and 222 industrial end users with compressed air systems and several compressed air system consultants.

    Findings on the demand side noted that customer awareness of and concern for compressed air efficiency is very low. Although system reliability was identified as a primary objective in compressed air system management, 35% of those interviewed reported they had experienced unscheduled shutdowns of their compressed air systems during the previous 12 months. Sixty percent of these establishments had unscheduled shutdowns of two days or more. Fully 57% of manufacturing plants had taken no action to improve compressed air system efficiency in the two years prior to the survey.

    Supply-side findings reported that over three-quarters of distributors report that they offer system efficiency measures. While this is a growth area, efficiency services provide only an estimated 4% of their total revenue. Most distributors identified customers' lack of understanding of the benefits of compressed air efficiency measures as the major barrier to their increased sale.

    Visit the training page for more information about attending or hosting a training session in the Fundamentals and Advanced Management of Compressed Air Systems.