A clear pipeline of innovation: Class 0 oil-free air for petrochemical pipelines
Rand-Air, part of the Atlas Copco Specialty Rental division and an established leader in the field of air, nitrogen, power, flow (pumps), steam boiler and lighting solutions, recently took a bold decision which has changed the way its customer – and Rand Air – will approach future hires of a similar nature.
Working in the petrochemical sector requires critical attention to detail, with absolute safety at all times imperative. When Rand-Air was approached by a long-standing customer in this sector for equipment to clear a sulfuric acid pipeline bound for decommissioning, they approached the task at hand in an innovative and agile manner, coming up with a different solution from those previously applied.
“The project undertaken was unusual by nature. Our customer required the use of an air compressor which could perform optimally in a high-risk, volatile environment. We therefore decided that this particular project demanded a fresh solution – and a departure from the way in which it had previously been approached,” explains Rand-Air seasoned petrochemical industry sales representative Melanie Lake.
Oil-free air versus nitrogen
“Acid cannot come into contact with any moisture – whether it be water or oil – due to its extreme volatility. Contaminants can cause hazardous chemical reactions and potentially even combustion,” explains Lake.
The clearing of the first sulfuric acid pipeline – undertaken in 2020 – was intended as a once-off project. Rand-Air therefore took the decision to go with the Class 0 oil-free compressor due to its production of high-quality, clean, oil-free, and totally dry compressed air.
“Multiple consultations and analyses preceded this project, to ensure that the Class 0 oil-free compressor would produce air which was sufficiently pure, contaminant-free and dry, at a pressure dew point of minus 40 degrees,” she adds.
Prior to Rand-Air supplying the oil-free compressor, this particular customer had always used nitrogen to clear their pipelines. By providing the Class 0 oil-free air solution, Rand-Air was able to prove that this was the better solution in this case: able to offer a more efficient solution in a shorter time, and with significantly less potential contamination or safety risk.
Ultimate efficiency with multiple uses
The first pipeline clearing project using oil-free air turned out to be so successful that the estimated five day compressor hire, was completed in just one. This incredible achievement further highlighted the operational efficiency of the oil-free compressors selected.
Following the success of the initial pipeline clearing, four more projects took place during the course of the year, and another is set for October.
“Efficiency and air purity are the reason that this particular compressor is the best and most viable solution for clearing pipelines,” says Lake. Compressors hired by the customer this year include the PTS1600 compressor with a dryer which produces 1600 cubic feet of compressed air per minute.
“Oil-free compressors are able to be effective over tremendous distances. For example, some of the pipeline projects have required air to be pumped through pipelines of between 2.5 kms to 5 kms. When compressing air over this distance, pressure drops – which affects the flow. It is essential that air is pumped into the tanks at below 4 Bar,” Lake explains.
Oil-free compressors have multiple uses. Customers usually only hire them for instrumentation, fermentation and aerating containers which are standard uses for these machines.
According to Lake, the fact that these compressors can also be used in applications such as clearing petrochemical pipelines, demonstrates their diversity: “The oil-free compressor is even capable of moving an 80 ton transformer, thanks to its ability to blow up industrial pillows which are then placed underneath the heavy transformer and floated,” she remarks.
All other capabilities aside, the most compelling reason for the hire of the Class 0 oil-free compressor was because of its ability to produce clean, pure, contaminant-free dry air.
Making agility count
Rand-Air attributes its high degree of customer success and repeat business to an around-the-clock service and strong team effort: “We have made ourselves indispensable to so many customers, due to our extremely high standards and substantial industry experience. Whenever there is a need for rental equipment, customers insist on using our solutions and services – thanks to our stringent safety audits, impeccable service and superior technical assistance,” says Lake.
True to its reputation in many industries including petrochemical – Rand-Air has remained true to its ethos and tagline of ‘making agility count’ and providing effective solutions to customer’s operational needs.
“We are a team which works together and supports each other no matter the task. Our technicians and staff are on call 24/7 to ensure customer service and support. We will always be prepared to go above and beyond for a customer, looking at their problems from fresh angles, to find them the best solution possible – ‘clearing the way’ for innovation and improved productivity,” concludes Lake.