UCB Compressed Air Solution Delivers Huge Benefits

3 May 2016:  UCB Manufacturing Ireland Ltd, a subsidiary of global pharmaceutical firm UCB, appointed Limerick-based O’Neill Industrial to significantly upgrade its compressed air system through a competitive tendering process. The investment in the two phased upgrade project has delivered many benefits for the firm, including increased capacity, reliability and energy savings along with reduced maintenance costs and improved air quality.

The UCB Project Engineer, Vincent Wall, explains the rationale for upgrading the compressed air system, “The old system had a number of shortcomings so when our production requirements increased we were faced with capacity issues. In addition, depreciation over the years meant increasing maintenance costs and reduced energy efficiencies and there was an ongoing risk of oil contamination from ageing oil lubricated compressors. These were all business critical issues.”

Previously, the compressed air distribution system was supplied by four air compressors at the Shannon site, two of which were in excess of 10 years old. The findings of an audit conducted by O’Neill Industrial highlighted that all four compressors needed to be operational at the same time in order to meet the sites compressed air capacity requirements during a typical production week.  This allowed no flexibility for maintenance or downtime of the compressor equipment.

In addition, only one of the four compressors was oil free compressor.  The three oil-injected compressors carried a risk of system contamination and all were at the end of their useful life, leading to increased maintenance costs and reliability issues.

Following a competitive tendering process, UCB selected O’Neill Industrial to design and install a system that would meet their future oil free compressed air volume requirements, efficiently and with a standby solution in place.

A number of recommendations for a totally oil free system were presented.  The most favourable option considering capital costs, running costs, site demand profile and available infrastructure was the installation of a new Ingersoll Rand oil free 90Kw compressor and associated Desiccant Air Dryer as part of phase 1 and the installation of a new Ingersoll Rand oil free Variable speed compressor 75kw as part of phase 2 which would meet the desired reliability and running efficiencies.

With the complete solution in place (Phase 1 & 2) since Q3 2015, the envisaged benefits of the large investment have been justified;

  • There is sufficient compressed air generation capacity to ensure site demand is met even during maintenance activities on the compressors. Total installed oil free capacity now stands at 39.19 M3/Minute verses a max demand of 19 M3/Minute.
  • The potential for oil contamination is eliminated.
  • Annual running costs have been reduced by 15% due to the elimination of off Load running and lowering of system pressure.
  • A centralised compressed air plant room provides the ability to control the operating pressure band and reduce the overall generating pressure.

While the above benefits are substantial, there are other significant upsides as a result of this investment as noted by the project engineer, “The increased reliability of our compressed air system feeds into our site sustaining programme.  From a compressed air audit perspective, it is far more favourable to present an oil free compressed air system to visiting auditors as the compressed air is classified as a direct product contact system.”

The Engineering Director at UCB noted, “The overall install went smoothly.  Good integration between the system provider and UCB meant there were no business interruptions and the system benefits were realised through increased flexibility, ease of maintenance, system reliability and reduced contamination risks.”