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Contaminant removal from compressed air systems

Author : Richard Moore of Parker Hannifin

13 June 2012

To operate a safe and cost effective compressed air system, contamination must be removed or reduced to acceptable limits.

  •   Microbiological contamination
  •   Corrosion within storage vessels and the distribution system
  •   Damaged production equipment
  •   Blocked or frozen valves, cylinders air motors and tools
  •   Premature unplanned desiccant changes for adsorption dryers
In addition to problems associated with the compressed air system itself, allowing contamination such as water, particulate, oil and micro-organisms to
exhaust from valves, cylinders, air motors and tools, can lead to an unhealthy working environment with the potential for personal injury, staff absences and
financial compensation claims.

Compressed air contamination will ultimately lead to:
  • Inefficient production processes
  • Spoiled, damaged or reworked products
  • Reduced production efficiency
  • Increased manufacturing costs
It is important to look at each contaminant in detail, as due to the diversity of the contamination present, a number of purification technologies must be employed for its removal.
Compressed air contaminants
To many compressed air users, the realisation that there are ten major contaminants in a compressed air system is somewhat of a surprise. It is often thought that only three contaminants are present (Dirt / Water / Oil), however, upon closer examination, these three contaminants can be broken down further as:

  •  Micro-organisms 
  •  Atmospheric Dirt & Solid Particulate 
  •  Rust
  •  Pipe Scale
  •  Water Vapour
  •  Condensed Liquid Water
  •  Water Aerosols
  •  Oil Vapour
  •  Liquid Oil
  •  Oil Aerosols

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