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Food & Beverage How to Get Cleaner Compressed Air for Food Applications

Compressed air can be a potential hazard in food and beverage processes if it’s contaminated.

The quality of compressed air is not just affected by the air intake, but also by the type of oil used in oil-injected screw air compressors. Air-compressor oil has three key functions:

  1. It ensures that the rotors and rotor bearings in the compressor are lubricated.
  2. It dissipates the heat of the compression process.
  3. It forms a sealing film at the seal edge between the rotor and the compressor casing.

In food processing and pharmaceutical industries, the presence of oil particles suspended in air must be as low as possible, and compressor oils must be NSF H1 certified as food-grade oil.

What is the right kind of oil to use?

Newly developed food-grade synthetic oils offer three benefits for air compressors, including:

  • For efficient and trouble-free production, a synthetic oil formulation offers a long service life and good temperature behavior with low residual content in the compressed air.
  • For reduced maintenance costs, higher compressor availability, reduced total cost for oil, oil filters and oil separators as well as reduced disposal costs, advanced synthetic oil offers special oxidation-resistant properties. At temperatures between 90°C and 100°C or more and under continual oxygen intake, organic acids produced by oxidation quickly decompose, or rapidly age, the oil. The concentration of such acids is expressed by the so-called neutralization number. The lower this value, the lower the extent of oxidation. The right products ensure a low neutralization number through carefully selected high-quality additives.
  • For increased compressor performance with the same power input, a lubricity base oil combined with the optimum additive package will avoid oil decomposition, oxidation and residue formation.
  • For avoiding costly disposal of condensate into the sewage system, high-quality oil prevents emulsification of the condensates, minimizing the need to separate oil and water in a normal separator, which reduces the need for expensive condensate separators and disposal fees.

A real case of cost savings

A leading sausage manufacturer was having trouble with its NSF H1 compressor oils. Oil service life of fewer than 1,000 hours caused high maintenance costs and frequent downtime.

After precise analyses, the manufacturer followed recommendations to perform an on-line cleaning of the compressors and changeover to an NSF H1-registered synthetic compressor oil. After cleaning, the compressor could be operated up to 15° Kelvin cooler than before. Additionally, the cooler no longer required an annual strip and clean. Operating time increased to more than 4,000 hours, and maintenance costs decreased considerably.

NSF H1-registered synthetic compressor oils from Klüber Lubrication are especially developed for compressors in the food processing and pharmaceutical industries where compressed air can have contact with the end product during the production process. With NSF H1 registration and manufactured in ISO 21469 certified facilities, these high-performance synthetics oils support food and beverage plants in their compliance with demanding hygiene requirements.

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