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Clean up your compressed air

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2 04 19 2Potential risks from contamination of compressed air are taken extremely seriously by the food and drink sector. Mark Whitmore from BOGE sums up the contaminant hazards, their sources and how to tackle them.

Compressed air has multiple uses in manufacturing and processing food and beverages, serving applications such as handling, cooling, freezing, labelling, cutting, peeling, bottle filling and packaging. Contaminated compressed air can damage vital machinery, compromise product quality and seriously affect consumer and employee health.

There are three main contamination sources: the atmosphere, the compressor, and the piping for receipt and distribution of air. Contaminants fall into three interacting forms:
•    Solid – including dust and microorganisms drawn from the atmosphere and particles from abraded or corroded system components
•    Liquid – including atmospheric water pulled into the system, or condensing from vapour, plus compressor lubricants and coolants
•    Gaseous – including vaporised water, lubricant and coolant

Measures to avoid compressed air contamination should be part of a food and beverage company’s HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plan. ‘BCAS Food Grade Compressed Air Best Practice Guideline 102’, a voluntary code agreed by the British Compressed Air Society and British Retail Consortium, should be followed.

A variety of methods can be combined to meet the code’s requirements:
•    Water separators – for bulk removal of condensed water and liquid oil
•    Coalescing filters – dealing with water or oil which has formed an aerosol of small droplets
•    Drying systems – such as pressure-over-generation, refrigeration, membrane and adsorption (desiccant) dryers
•    Dust removal filters – removing dry particulates and other solids
•    Sterile air filters – ensuring absolute removal of microorganisms and solid particles
•    Routine maintenance – including regular draining, cleaning and sterilisation of pipework

And of course, high-quality, oil-free air compressors with low-wear components should also be chosen wherever food and drink are involved.

For further information, visit https://uk.boge.com/en.