Ensuring air quality in food & beverage manufacturing

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Compressed air plays an indispensable role in the food and beverage sector and is used in a broad range of applications including product transportation and storage; packaging, filling and capping; cooling, spraying and cleaning; and fermentation and aeration.

However, while they are critical for all modern food and beverage manufacturing facilities, if not used appropriately compressors can actually have a detrimental effect. Contaminants emitted by compressors can affect food safety standards.

“Generally, there are three types of contaminants in compressed air – oil, moisture, and particles,” said William Chan, product manager at CAPS Australia. “Oil and many types of particles are detrimental to consumers’ health while moisture can lead to the growth of bacteria, either in equipment or the end product.”

Chan advises that food and beverage manufacturers who want to avoid air quality problems should follow a two-step process.

The first step is to select an appropriate compressor. There are two types of compressors on the market, oil lubricated compressors and oil free compressors.

“With oil lubricated compressors you actually inject oil into the compression process, which means you actually pass this contaminant (lubricant) downstream. If the compressed air isn’t ever in contact with any of the end product, in theory food makers can use this technology without risk,” said Chan.

However, in applications where the compressed air does come into contact with the end product, oil free compressors should be used. “Oil free compressors do not inject any lubricants in the compression process, which means we can safely say that one of the three contaminants has been reduced,” said Chan.

The second step to ensuring air quality is in the correct choice of drying technology which is the means by which moisture is removed from compressed air. “Once again, if the compressed air does not come into contact with the end product then the user can potentially use a refrigeration dryer instead of a desiccant dryer,” said Chan.

In applications where the compressed air does come into contact with the end product, a desiccant dyer is the best option.

CAPS Australia offers both lubricated compressors and oil-free compressors. All of these oil-free models comply with the ISO 8573-1 Class 0 2010 standard. This Class 0 certification is the most stringent class of air quality and certifies that the air discharged by the compressor is free of added oil aerosols, vapours and liquids.

In addition, the company supplies refrigeration dryers, desiccant dryers, as well as filtration products, storage products and nitrogen generators. As Chan explained, nitrogen is used as a preservation agent, for example inside packets of chips or wine bottles, to maintain freshness and preserve taste.

Asked how CAPS Australia can help food and beverage manufacturers decide what’s right for them, Chan said the company offers site audits as well as energy audits. They can help fitout businesses with the right equipment and guide them with regard to energy saving potential.