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Compressed air has become vital for day-to-day operations in most industries, according to Frost and Sullivan.

Currently, the most commonly used compressors are oil-injected rotary screws, which require 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 and Sullivan believes that the European oil-free compressors market is likely to witness huge growth in the future.

The market registered revenues of USD540m (GBP322m) in 2008 and this is estimated to reach USD668m in 2015.

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 per cent oil-free air.

As a result, there is no risk of oil-contaminated compressed air.

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.

Cost is involved in consuming oil and the disposal of oil residue is an additional expense.

These costs, although not apparent at the time of purchase, are high and contribute substantially to the total cost of ownership.

In comparison, the maintenance costs of oil-free compressors are said to be very low.

Oil-free compressors eliminate the need to periodically check the oil level, to refill oil and to change oil and cartridges.

Consequently, there is also no need to treat the exhausts.

Oil-free compressors tend to be more energy efficient, cutting energy costs by up to 30 per cent.

As energy forms 70 per cent of the total lifecycle cost of a compressor, these savings can be substantial.

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 as a result of pollution by oil leakages.

There is also no need to dispose of exhaust oil and filter cartridges and there is no risk of desiccant contamination because of the presence of oil.

As a result, oil-free compressors enable compressed-air users to operate with maximum environmental efficiency.

Avoiding even the slightest oil contamination is a critical need among various end users, particularly 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 these critical applications cannot afford for any shortcomings.

Consequently, more end users – big, small or medium sized – are investing in oil-free air compressors, which guarantee premium air quality, eliminating any concerns of product safety, according to Frost and Sullivan.

Food-and-beverage, life-sciences and other industries, 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 that have been affected by the economic recession.

The power generation industry is also expected to grow during the forecast period.

However, as a result of 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-sciences and electronics industries, where high air quality is important.

Most of these critical applications have already implemented oil-free compressors on taking into account the benefits of using such compressors.

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 USD668m by 2015, growing at a compound annual growth rate of three per cent for four per cent from 2008 to 2015.

Frost and Sullivan

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