Friday 20 November 2009

Air quality

Need for high air quality to drive oil-free compressors market
By Katarzyna Owczarczyk, Research Analyst, Industrial Automation & Process Control, Frost & Sullivan
Katarzyna Owczarczyk is a Research Analyst with the Frost & Sullivan European Industrial Automation and Process Control Practice. She focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the Industrial Automation and Process Control industry in Europe.

Compressed air has become vital for day-to-day operations in most industries. Currently, the most commonly used compressors are oil-injected rotary screw. As the name suggests, it requires oil to operate. However, contamination of the oil by even the smallest quantities in purity-critical compressed-air applications can result in damaged products or product batches, high rejection rates and returns and costly production downtime and cleanup. In order to overcome these issues, end users are increasingly turning towards oil-free compressors.

Frost & Sullivan is of the view that the European oil-free compressors market is likely to witness tremendous growth in future. The market registered revenues of $540.0 million in 2008, and is estimated to reach $668.0 million in 2015.

Chart 1 provides the revenue comparison of oil-free compressors and industrial compressors for the European oil-free compressors market in 2008.

Chart 1
Oil-free Compressors Market: Revenue Comparison of Oil-free Compressors and Industrial Compressors (Europe), 2008Source: Frost & Sullivan

Benefits of Using Oil-free Compressors
Special thrust is given to oil-free compressors, as unlike oil-injected or technical oil-free that emit some levels of contaminated air, oil-free compressors deliver 100% oil-free air. Thus, there is no risk of oil-contaminated compressed air.

Besides, the running costs of oil-injected compressors are higher than oil-free compressors. Oil-injected compressors require regular oil filling and frequent filter changes to prevent air contamination and serious shutdown conditions. Moreover, cost is involved in consuming oil and the disposal of oil residue is an additional cost. These costs, although not apparent at the time of purchase, are very high and contribute substantially to the total cost of ownership. In comparison, the maintenance costs of oil-free compressors are very low. Oil-free compressors eliminate the need to periodically check the oil level, the need to refill oil and the need to change oil and cartridges. Consequently, the need to treat the exhausts is also nil. Moreover, oil-free compressors tend to be more energy efficient, cutting down energy costs even up to 30.0 per cent. As energy forms 70.0 per cent of the total life cycle cost of a compressor, the savings can be substantial.

Finally, oil-free compressors solve the existing problems of pollution and oil waste management caused by lubricated types of compressors. By using oil-free compressors, there is no risk to the environment due to pollution by oil leakages, there is no need to dispose exhaust oil and filter cartridges and there is no risk of desiccant contamination due to the presence of oil. In result, oil-free compressors enable compressed air users to operate with maximum environmental efficiency.

Growing Need for the Highest Air Quality
Avoiding even the slightest oil contamination is a very critical need among various end users. This is more so in critical applications, where air comes into contact with the process, such as food and beverage processing, pharmaceutical manufacturing and packaging, chemical and petrochemical processing, semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, the medical sector, automotive paint spraying and textile manufacturing.

The performance of air compressors has a direct impact on product quality and production costs and end users in all these critical applications cannot afford for any shortcomings otherwise, they stand to lose market position and reputation. Consequently, much more end users, be it big, small or medium-sized, are investing in oil-free air compressors, which guarantee premium air quality, eliminating any concerns of product safety.

Food and beverage, life sciences and others, including automotive, chemicals, oil and gas, pulp and paper and other niche applications, held the largest share in the European oil-free compressors market in 2008. Shares of these end users are expected to rise from 2008 to 2015, except others which have been affected by the economic recession. The power generation industry is also expected to grow during the forecast period. However, due to the impact of the economic recession, the electronics industry is expected to be severely affected until 2010. The textile market is expected to decline in terms of revenue share, because of the growing trend of moving textile production to low-cost labour countries in the Middle East and Asia.

The European oil-free compressors market is expected to grow steadily from 2010 onwards, driven by the demand from food and beverage, life science and electronics industries, where high air quality is very important. Most of these critical applications have already implemented oil-free compressors on taking into account the benefits of using such compressors. Moreover, given the current economic situation, it is not profitable to use unreliable and costly lubricated compressors in most of these applications. In future, other applications are expected to follow suit. The European oil-free compressors market is estimated to generate $668.0 million by 2015, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.0–4.0 per cent from 2008 to 2015.

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