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PureBlade - Clean Sheet Compressor Design, Low Energy Air Supply for Food Drinks Production

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PureBlade (PureBlade - Clean Sheet Compressor Design, Low Energy Air Supply for Food Drinks Production)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29

Air compressors are used by all sectors of industry to supply air for a wide range of manufacturing processes and consume ~10% of industrial energy usage in the EU. This equates to approximately 10TWh electricity and 4.3M tonnes CO2 per annum.

Both financial and regulatory pressures (Article 8(4) of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive) are raising the profile of industrial energy use. Audits of compressor systems reveal opportunities to upgrade with a short return on investment due to the expensive nature of wasted and leaked air. Despite this, many manufacturers use these systems known as blowers; oil-free, low pressure air compression technologies with core designs remaining unchanged, dating back to before 1935.

Lontra’s solution to wasted energy usage and problematic air leakage is a simple, brand new geometry based on two interlinking rings, offering industry the significant step-change needed in downtime and long service life from its assets. Lontra’s technology also presents the possibility of over 20% energy savings; the equivalent of approximately 2TWh electricity, and 860,000 tonnes CO2 saved per annum across the EU.

By investing in a clean sheet design Lontra have leapfrogged the competition and created a new state of the art technology with significantly improved efficiency and reliability; the Blade Compressor®.

In this project Lontra have developed its technology for Food & Pharma applications, together with key commercial activities to bring the Blade Compressor® to market. These include establishing routes to market, engaging with potential end users and distributors, as well as identifying manufacturing methods and costs to create a viable business plan. This project has given Lontra the opportunity to drive innovation into these key markets, raising the bar of air compressor efficiency across industry and substantial savings in energy usage.
Adapting Lontra’s blower technology to a high level across efficiency, reliability and purity for clean pneumatic conveying applications has progressed considerably. . CAD designs were completed, with production engineers and key suppliers ensuring that components can be manufactured to a high quality, establishing a good view of manufacturing methods and costs. Design work was been supported by silencer development with the objective of creating a class-leading product in noise-sensitive environments. The compressor enclosure and ancillary equipment incorporates some novel features and state-of-the-art features for ease of use, maintenance and reliability.
Design work started on the next sizes of blower, with the objective of satisfying customer requirements for the majority of positive displacement blowers where Lontra’s technology can bring energy savings, high uptime, and failsafe air purity.
The Phase 1 project initiated engagement with end-users. This has been expanded to ensure market needs are captured and addressed, while at the same time raising awareness of the forthcoming new product. Some key end-users have been identified to work with Lontra as early adopters; these are typically environmentally responsible companies which recognise the need to reduce their energy consumption as important to continuing success.
Lontra’s main routes to market will be through distributors (full-service providers who install and maintain air systems) and integrators (who integrate the compressor into a bespoke system for an end-user). Lontra is identifying the most appropriate partners and building a roadmap to roll out the new compressor across markets and geographic regions. At present, many distributors have shown great interest in embracing Lontra’s new technology, with the maturity of the compressor market seen as stagnant rather than stable, and proving to be more accessible than originally perceived.
In the second half of the project technical progress transitioned on to prototype machines, with in-house testing and development, and external independent testing and evaluation. Commercial activities have been extensive, with a successful product launch at ComVac, Hannover. Lontra’s industry visits to external test sites and customer engagement have been supported by a new demonstration model.
All objectives of this project have been met or exceeded:
• The new blower has completed initial durability and is expected to be high-performing and leading in key areas of reliability and ease-of-use. The design in particular addresses the risks of lubricant contamination to the delivered air, making Lontra’s blower among the safest to install in a critical process.
• Independently verified power consumption tests were carried out comparing Lontra performance with a new major competitor machine believed to be among the most efficient. Results show energy savings of up to 34%, as well as a broader range of efficient operation.
• Demonstrations and dissemination have been very well received, showing a keen appetite for this new product.
• Manufacturing methods, key suppliers and costs are in place.
• Documentation, certification, and product support are well advanced.
• Contracts have been signed with first distributors.
The anticipated step-change in efficiency has been exceeded, meaning that payback on investment will be rapid, uptake will be high, and the impact on climate change targets even more significant.
Oil-free compressors are very unique in that their efficiency does not noticeably degrade over time therefore enhancing the lifetime energy savings further. In addition, maintaining performance means that the blower need not be over-sized for the application when new.
Reliability is a critical feature for many users and Lontra’s new blower has been designed to last with minimal maintenance. The control system includes extensive health and performance monitoring enabling the compressor to anticipate potential problems.
This new blower is a solid foundation on which to build a range of compressor products, bringing the inherent benefits of its novel technology to many applications.
Response from end-users and distributors has been very positive, so that the limitation on rate of uptake is now seen as Lontra’s ability to ramp up production rather than customer demand.
This production is estimated to show that annual energy savings in clean pneumatic conveying users will reach 0.5 billion kWh per year within 5 years, with inroads into other markets. This is not only a significant contribution to meeting climate-change targets, but is likely to be the influencing “step-change” needed for the whole compressor industry. Therefore, demonstrating that significant improvements are possible and the Lontra technology a major contributor in energy-saving legislation.
As well as environmental benefits and reducing costs for industrial users, Lontra’s plans to increase production and bring the technology to other markets will create a new major player in the compressor industry. Although there are large compressor companies based in Europe (Atlas Copco is by far the largest with revenues ~$14B, including manufacturing and sales worldwide), manufacturing in the industry is dominated by major companies in the USA (such as Ingersoll Rand, revenue around $14.2B) and Asia-Pacific. Lontra’s new technology manufactured in the EU can become a keystone of an industry estimated to be worth $60B worldwide.
Inside Lontra's LP2 Compressor Package
PureBlade Miniature Display model
Lontra LP2 Compressor Package