The demand for oil-free air compressors has increased in Ireland as investment in the agri-food and pharmaceutical manufacturing sectors continues. With that, the demand for rental equipment has increased, particularly among companies that are reliant on the continuity of supply of compressed air.  Having launched Ireland’s only diesel powered oil-free air compressor fleet available for hire, Austin O’Neill, of O’Neill Industrial, explains why appropriate rental solutions are so critical to industry and the factors driving growth in demand for oil free air compressors.

Ensuring continuity of supply

In manufacturing, compressed air is often as widely used and as vital as gas and electricity. Indeed, for pharmaceutical and food and drink manufacturers, keeping production lines running around the clock with clean and reliable compressed air at high volumes is absolutely vital – so breakdowns can have serious consequences.   If the air compressor cannot be fixed, speed is of the essence when it comes to hiring a replacement to help minimise the costs and setbacks connected with unscheduled repairs. While an emergency or a planned outage (for maintenance) is the most common reason for a company to hire an air compressor, increasingly there are many other reasons and benefits to having an appropriate temporary compressed air solution on standby to ensure operations continue uninterrupted. Special circumstances may require additional capacity beyond a facility’s compressed air capacity.  It’s not uncommon for particular projects or product runs to place seasonal demands on resources that exceed routine operations. In order to get the job done in an efficient manner, a company may need to ramp up its capabilities still further with additional equipment.  Temporary supplemental equipment can cost-effectively fulfill these requirements. Manufacturers may also hire a compressed air system to facilitate the trialing or installation of a new compressor. In most of these cases, the hire of electrical air compressors would be sufficient to ensure continuity of supply. However, in the event of a catastrophic equipment failure where time or infrastructure are limiting factors for the installation of an electric compressor unit or where a plant outage means there is no power to operate an electric compressor, then companies need to look to other alternatives. In response to this need, O’Neill Industrial has made a significant investment in bringing the Big Blue Hire Fleet to Ireland – a fleet of four portable Ingersoll Rand oil-free air compressors with diesel engines.  They are unique to other air compressors currently available for hire in Ireland because they are diesel powered and offer 100 per cent oil-free, environmentally-safe, industrial air. This fleet will meet the demands of companies where air quality is critical and the availability of rental oil-free air equipment is about higher productivity and less downtime. The Big Blue oil-free diesel air compressors have output capacities of 1,500 cfm (380-710 L/s), maximum outlet pressures of 150 psi and come equipped with several advanced features. As the machines are self-contained and diesel-powered, they can be installed quickly at a site without the need to provide electrical power, which can be a complicating factor when running emergency compressors. [caption id="attachment_32536" align="alignright" width="300"]3bigbluemachines Three Big Blue machines[/caption] While relatively new to Ireland, two Big Blue machines have already been hired by a large power generation company and a large medical devices company.  Both companies had an emergency outage where a compressor failed.  Their standby equipment kicked-in immediately. However, the application in production was viewed as so critical they needed a contingency solution in case the standby system failed. O’Neill Industrial responded immediately and delivered a Big Blue machine to the sites in the south and south-east guaranteeing continuity of production and giving the plant managers peace of mind.

Why oil-free?

Food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, electronics and other critical applications require the absolute highest quality air, reliability, and efficiency. Oil-free air compressors can guarantee pure air, thereby eliminating the risk of contaminated end-products, production stoppages and avoiding damage to a company’s reputation from contaminated products or recalls. The presence of oil and moisture in compressed air systems can cause significant problems for manufacturers, consumers, and distributors. Problems can include:
  • costly operational downtime;
  • product spoilage;
  • disastrous product recalls;
  • damage to a company’s reputation; and,
  • harmed consumers and product liability.
Many companies provide technically oil-free compressed air using oil-flooded air compressors combined with compressed air treatment devices and filtration. This type of solution does not completely eliminate the risk of contamination. If any one of these components fail or maintenance is not rigorously maintained, your process can be contaminated with oil. However, it is only oil-free air compressors with ISO 8573-1 Class 0 (2010) certification, that can guarantee true protection. For example, Ingersoll Rand oil-free compressor technologies have been developed specifically for processes that cannot tolerate the presence of oil in their production. No oil means no risk. Compressed air systems produce large amounts of condensate. In a typical air compressor, this condensate contains lubricant contaminants that need to be disposed of properly. While oil water separators exist to help your company efficiently remove waste, oil-free air compressors eliminate the problem entirely. Here is an example of how compressed air quality can affect production at a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant: Tablet production and coating: Compressed air is frequently used to de-dust tablets and spray on tablet coatings. Class 1.2.1 oil-free air ensures higher product purity and eliminates the risk of rejections or health risks associated with oil contamination. Product filling, packaging and bottling: Compressed air often has direct contact with the product or package during filling, dosing, blister packaging and bottling. Class 1.2.1 oil-free air prevents oil contamination from being transferred directly to the product. Mixing and holding: Compressed air is used to maintain over pressurisation on mixing and holding tanks to ensure product integrity and sterility. Class 1.2.1 oil-free air prevents the risk of contamination damaging this delicate balance. Aseptic applications: Whenever your application demands aseptic air, it demands Class 0 100 percent oil-free air. Oil contamination can prevent high efficiency particle filters from performing effectively. Class 1.2.1 oil-free air ensures consistently sterile air. [caption id="attachment_32537" align="alignright" width="200"]Austin O'Neill, O'Neill Industrial Austin O'Neill, O'Neill Industrial[/caption] There are two points to take from this.  Firstly, when it comes to hiring a replacement air compressor, whatever the scenario, the key considerations to be made are response times, availability of the right equipment for seamless integration, along with transport and off-loading capability.  By having contingency plans in place and researching hire solutions available, you will minimise the costs and setbacks connected with unscheduled repairs. Secondly, due to the nature of compressed air applications in pharmaceutical and food and beverage production, there is a risk of contamination.  There is little room for error and companies must be diligent about their practices and processes so that contamination doesn’t become an issue. Following compressed air standards is one practice that can help ensure quality and safety is not compromised. Additionally, a manufacturer needs to decide which compressed air system works best for its particular operation.  Often decisions on how best to maximise the deployment of capital and the optimisation of the operational costs will directly impact the choices made during the equipment selection phase. The interdependent complexities make it imperative to understand trade-offs. By understanding the decision-making process of selecting the appropriate compressed air equipment to support production, manufacturers can be confident in their goal towards contamination-free products. Remember, no oil, no risk.