Good practice in the field of generating compressed air could save Northern Ireland companies up to £3 million every year. This was the message delivered to 80 delegates at a recent energy saving seminar organised by Invest Northern Ireland and The Carbon Trust.

The Compressing the Cost of Compressed Air seminar, held in Portadown, covered ways to improve energy efficiency relating to compressed air systems. It featured presentations of case studies relating to four companies, including Ryobi Aluminium Casting, Carrickfergus, HUCO Lightronics, Limavady and ABP, Lurgan, which together have made savings of over £84,000 by making changes in equipment and processes relating to producing compressed air.

Topics covered in the one-day seminar included choosing the right type of compressor, good housekeeping measures to reduce leaks, misuse and maintenance and the latest developments in compressed air systems or their alternatives.

Jim Sayers, Director of Knowledge Management at Invest Northern Ireland, explains: “Compressed air is used in most manufacturing companies in a variety of ways from process controls to motive power. While it’s often thought of as being free, it is actually a very expensive medium for energy and costly to the environment too. As demonstrated by the case studies presented at the seminar, significant savings can be made by implementing good practice.

“The first step companies can take towards saving money is to conduct an energy audit of their compressed air systems. Invest NI can help with this by providing consultants to carry out a free energy audit. The audit will identify potential solutions, any implementation costs which might need to be incurred and the annual savings and payback period. We can help companies implement the recommendations of the audit by providing an interest free loan. The outcome benefits both the company, which can reinvest the savings made from increasing energy efficiency, and the environment.”

The main speaker at the seminar was Eric Harding of Air Technology Ltd. He told delegates that 10% of UK industrial electricity is used to produce compressed air, at a cost of some £400,000,000. Savings of around 30% of this could be achieved with little or no cost to industry.