Exposing the truth about wasted energy in compressed air systems

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Compressed air is no longer the cheap commodity that it used to be. Find out the latest statistics and discover the impact of rising costs on your business and how to combat them.

Thorite recently launched it’s ‘Behind Closed Doors’ campaign to urge businesses to gain a better insight into what their compressors are actually doing for them. With numerous options for saving energy, from scheduled leak testing to automatic shut-off valves, the return on investment to combat inefficiencies is now measured in months, not years. The campaign also highlights the opportunity for companies to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 3.2 tons per year.

Looking back to 2021, it was easy to consider Compressed air as something of a ‘free’ resource. Energy prices were low and manufacturers generating compressed air for one area of their factory could utilise it in another area for next to zero marginal cost. However, since energy prices began their upwards journey, compressed air is no longer the cheap commodity it once used to be.

In 2022, the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) conducted research into the extent of compressed air use in UK industry. They found that 70% of UK industry uses compressed air in some form or another and that on average, 30% of a business’s entire energy costs could be attributed to compressed air generation.

Using figures from the (then recent) UK Energy-related products policy study, conducted by ICF in May 2021, they calculated the combined energy usage for the mid-point of all industrial compressor technologies over their lifetime at 11.71 TWh. Based on the current UK average non-domestic electrical unit cost of 12.49p/kWh at the time, the figures were substantial – equating to £1.475 billion being spent by UK companies to generate the compressed air their businesses rely on.

Add to this the fact that on average 32.9 per cent of this energy was being wasted through leaks and inefficient practices – equivalent to £485.43 million in wasted electricity spend – and we began to understand the extent of which this presents a problem for UK manufacturing.

Skip forwards to today and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has recently published its figures for UK average non-domestic electricity costs for the final quarter of 2022. This figure now stands at 24.56p/kWh according to statistics, but it is estimated that many industrial tariffs are now reaching as high as 50.73p/kWh as of January 2023.

If we use the Governments current published figures as a starting point and adjust the BCAS research for todays prices, we find that £2.943 billion is being used to generate compressed air in the UK. At a loss rate of 32.9%, that’s almost £1 billon of wasted energy every year in the UK, equivalent to £2.62 million every single day.

This staggering figure may come as a surprise to many of the UK’s manufacturers who have until recently worked on an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ policy when it comes to monitoring exactly what is going on within their compressor houses. It’s with this in mind that industry veterans Thorite recently launched their ‘Behind Closed Doors’ campaign, urging businesses to gain a better insight into what their compressors are actually doing for them. From scheduled leak testing to automatic shut off valves, datalogging to flow control and monitoring, the options for saving energy are numerous and the results are astonishing.

While energy savings in the past might have been outweighed by the cost of fixing leaks, thanks to the latest energy prices, the return on investment to combat inefficiencies is now months, not years. Not to mention the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions by up to 3.2 tons per year – A consideration that companies can’t help but be aware of.

With all things considered, isn’t it time your company found out what is happening behind closed doors?