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How to deliver assured air quality for production sensitive sites

03 December 2018

Gareth Topping, Business Line Director EMEAI at Gardner Denver, explains how to deliver assured air quality for production sensitive environments, and why there needs to be a greater focus on exhaust air from vacuum pumps. 

For production sensitive environments, it will come as no surprise that the compressed air used in these facilities needs to be of the highest standard. How would you feel if particles from an oil-lubricated compressor ended up contaminating meat that was being processed at a food manufacturing site?

However, while there is a group of international standards – ISO 8573 – that clearly set out the purity standards expected for compressed air in these environments, there are currently no equivalent standards in place for exhaust air from vacuum pumps.

This is a key issue myself and the rest of the team at Gardner Denver have been campaigning for over the last 18 months. Since my appointment as the chair of the British Compressed Air Society’s low pressure and vacuum working group, I have been working with other experts from across the industry to highlight this issue. We are looking into ensuring vacuum applications are represented in the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point management system, while highlighting best practice and the technologies available to make sure production sensitive sites are not at risk.

Potential issues
Most of these sites will currently use oil-lubricated vacuum pumps. These are usually excellent, reliable products, and the majority of them operate without any problems arising whatsoever. 

Nevertheless, poor maintenance practices or minor equipment faults can risk oil discharging from the exhaust. This presents a big problem for sites where air quality can’t be compromised.

As well as oil discharge from the exhaust, operators should also be aware that oil-lubricated vacuum pumps run the risk of oil carrying over from an open-ended inlet port, and there is the chance a separator element may fail due to misuse or through the use of non-genuine parts. 

Avoiding this issue can be relatively straightforward. Simple measures – such as using a food grade lubricant, fitting a downstream exhaust filter or remotely piping the exhaust air – can ensure the potential risks from an oil-lubricated vacuum pump are avoided. Combine this with regular maintenance and you are virtually guaranteed a high standard of air quality.

Opting for oil-free
Another option is to choose an oil-free vacuum pump. These have been specifically developed to meet the needs of manufacturers requiring only the highest air purity standards.

Oil-free vacuum pumps don’t require the same level of maintenance as oil-lubricated models, as there is no need to replace oil or filters. This also provides the added benefit of cutting down on costs over a pump’s lifetime.

Another major advantage to an oil-free vacuum pump is that it doesn’t have to be removed to carry out maintenance. This means there’s no equipment downtime or associated costs from oil, waste oil disposal or labour.

With the focus on air quality only likely to increase as time goes on, there’s real potential for those operating in production sensitive environments to reap the rewards of oil-free vacuum pumps.

For more information on Gardner Denver’s range of oil-free vacuum pumps, please visit www.gardnerdenver.com/industrials.


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