ABB drives cut the costs of high pressure gas

2 min read

A manufacturer of gas pressure boosters has cut manufacturing costs and given its customers more control of their applications by adopting ABB general machinery drives.

Utile Engineering Ltd., based in Northamptonshire, produces a range of gas pressure boosters for applications such as burners, gas engines and waste gas burners. Its customers often have a need to increase the incoming gas pressure supplied to their applications.

An example is where plant, for instance heat treatment equipment or gas oxidation equipment for burning toxic waste, is sourced from Europe where the mains gas is supplied at a higher pressure The UK gas supply is maintained at 20 mbar, so UK customers using European plant will need a boost in gas pressure to operate their equipment correctly.

The gas pressure boosters supplied by the company were using a vee-belt system to drive the pressure boosting fan, with speed controlled by a series of geared pulleys and employing direct-on-line starting. Utile was looking for a more controllable method of governing fan speed and hence pressure and considered variable speed drives (VSDs).

Glenn Howlett, Technical Services Manager with Utile, says: “We had looked at VSDs some years ago but at the time, we could not justify the cost of using a VSD in what is a relatively low cost unit. That changed with the launch of the ABB general machinery drive. Its cost allowed us to incorporate it in the smaller turbo gas boosters and still maintain our profit margins.”

The use of the ABB general machinery drive in their gas pressure boosters has allowed Utile to dispense with the gearing system and allow engineers at the customer’s site to change speed parameters quickly and easily. It also cuts Utile’s production costs as it now needs to make only two sizes of pulley to drive the vee-belts rather than six.

It also saves the customer money. A customer running its process for 18 hours may only need to draw gas for a total of three hours during that time, so the ability to change the speed of the fan as demand dictates can cut electricity costs.

“Another area where ABB drives help pressure boosting applications is in diagnostics,” says Howlett. “Previously, if a machine stopped, the panel would illuminate a fault warning lamp, indicating that there was a fault, but we would not know where or when that fault had occurred. In contrast, the ABB drive logs the faults, allowing us to look into them more closely and determine the cause.

An example of this was where a customer had repeated “tripping” of their gas booster during the early hours of the morning. As the panel needs a manual reset after a fault condition has occurred their production process remained off until the start of the day shift, costing them considerable expense in lost production time. The Smartdrive system was able to log that the fault was caused by the inlet pressure dropping at 1.00am, further investigation showed that at that time, other large gas using equipment came online causing the booster to be starved of gas, from this a pipework modification was carried out to solve the problem.

As well as the small pressure boosters, using ABB drives up to 2.2kW, Utile also occasionally employs ABB drives of 55 or 90kW for its larger boosters. They can also use the drives inbuilt real time clock to start and stop the booster at pre determined times, saving the cost of an additional time clock.

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