Compressed Air and energy savings: an opportunity for the future

Interesting scenarios if the energy savings and reduction in CO2 emissions achieved in the compressed air sector were to have access to the respective trading markets.

The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and energy savings generated by the decreased use of fossil fuel are two burning topics on the agenda of all nations. Currently, about 90% of the energy used worldwide is obtained from fossil fuels; moreover, the gradual increase in demand for energy leads to even higher uses, in terms of absolute quantities of fossil fuels, despite the relative increase in the use of renewable sources.

To stop the current risky process of global warming, caused by greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuels, it is now essential to achieve a significant reduction in their use. Furthermore, the exhaustion of reserves of fossil fuels is something that is on the not so distant horizon: another factor that makes it necessary to introduce energy-saving policies at a global level.
With the objective of promoting the transition towards the use of alternative energies, such as renewable versions, and introducing tangible energy saving and emission reduction initiatives, many
Nations have introduced environmental markets, regulated at a public level. Certified allowances of CO2 that is not emitted or fossil fuel that is not used are traded on the market: the buyers are subjects, usually energy-intensive industrial manufacturers, who need to reach targets set for energy savings.

An example of a market of this kind is the EU ETS system, i.e. the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, the instrument adopted by the European Union in implementation of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in energy-intensive industries. The EU ETS sets a cap on the total level of emissions allowed for all subjects regulated by the system, but it allows them to buy and sell CO2 emission allowances on this market. This system currently involves over 11,000 operators in Europe, including thermoelectric power plants and industrial facilities in the energy production and manufacturing sectors and, from 2012, also aircraft operators.


As for the energy savings related to fossil fuels, the tool mainly used at an European level is called ESC (Energy Saving Certificates), more specifically, tradable securities that certify the achievement of an energy saving among end users of energy, achieved through energy efficiency increase interventions and projects and expressed in TOE (Tons of Oil Equivalent), the unit of measure corresponding to the tons of oil saved. These markets represent a significant opportunity also for the compressed air industry, in which the allowances of energy savings achievable could take on a significant financial value.

A recent study conducted by Professor Roberto Cipollone, from the Department of Industrial and Information Engineering and the Department of Economics at the University of Aquila, calculated, based on an analysis of data provided by CAGI (Compressed Air Gas Institute) and PNEUROP (European Association of manufacturers of compressors, vacuum pumps, pneumatic tools and allied equipment), the allocations of carbon dioxide emissions currently associated to the compressors in use and subsequent possible energy savings. An economic value was then associated to the obtainable savings, referring to the value that these savings would have if converted into CO2 emission allowances or energy certificates traded on the European energy markets. The findings of the study place the financial value associated with the possible energy savings in the compressed air sector at between 165 and 385 million euros, with an expectation for the near future of a further increase in the range 200-500 million euro, linked to the realistic forecast of a gradual increase of the emission reduction and energy saving parameters. The energy saving potential for this sector is particularly high, and has been calculated at between 25 and 50% of current consumption. To reach this allowance, it is necessary to put actions into place at mainly three difference levels: leakage control and optimisation of pressure levels on distribution lines and the replacement of machines with obsolete technology. These are actions that would definitely view the recognition of the efforts made in terms of energy savings by the users of compressed air as an important incentive: if these could be translated into allowances to be spent on energy markets, a good percentage of these potential energy savings would turn into a tangible reality.

[From Issue 4, Vane Magazine, December 2015]


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