Energy-efficient compressors and visualisation software have given Cork-based pharmaceutical firm Hovione more control over operating costs and energy use, writes Kenneth Lloyd

Hovione, a Cork-based pharmaceutical firm, has realised multiple benefits from leasing a high-end compressed air system under a lease agreement. The Portuguese pharmaceutical firm acquired its Cork site in 2009. It was a state-of-the-art facility although, inevitably, the company inherited some older equipment. In 2015, it was apparent that the compressed air system needed to be replaced due to inefficiencies and reliability concerns.

However, the company had a preference for leasing, as opposed to buying, the equipment in this instance. It appointed compressed air solutions experts, O’Neill Industrial, to provide a new compressed air system under a lease agreement.

The benefits of leasing the equipment in contrast to buying were multiple for Hovione: it has a fixed-cost contract for five years, with an option to purchase at the end, and it covers all maintenance and emergency call-outs, thereby giving them a solution that delivered reliability and peace of mind.

From an accounting point of view, there are no surprises. Hovione can control and operate the installation without significant drain on working capital; the fixed-rate funding makes budgeting easy as the company has clear sight of future expenditures.

While the typical advantages of a lease purchase agreement means organisations avoid large capital expenditure up front, in some cases, it means they can install a higher spec system which may have been cost prohibitive if they chose to buy outright. For Hovione, it meant they could install a state-of-the-art compressed air system (CAS).

The key drivers for the system design were reliability, air quality, energy efficiency and standby capacity, as well as intelligent system control and visibility. With these factors in mind, Kenneth Lloyd, utilities and site-services manager at Hovione, designed the compressed air solution in collaboration with O’Neill Industrial.

The high-end spec included: two Ingersoll Rand fixed speed compressors, an Ingersoll Rand variable speed compressor, a heat-regenerative zero purge desiccant air dryer, a heatless desiccant air dryer, filter sets, Ingersoll Rand intelligent system controller model X8I and an Ingersoll Rand visualisation software package for air system monitoring.

Meeting key deliverables

The installed system has delivered in all the key areas. For example, the air quality exceeds the requirements of Section 820.70 (e) of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations set by the US Food and Drug Administration, which states: “Each manufacturer shall establish and maintain procedures to prevent contamination of equipment or product by substances that could reasonably be expected to have an adverse effect on product quality.”

This Ingersoll Rand Class 0 oil-free compressed air system helps Hovione adhere to this regulation by ensuring production processes remain 100% free of compressor-created contaminants. Furthermore, the air compressors installed bring best-in-class energy efficiency. This can be attributed to two major design features of the machines: air-rotor coating and the hybrid permanent magnet (HPM) motor.

Traditional airend coatings decay with use. Ingersoll Rand compressor air ends go through the UltraCoat rotor-coating process. This patented process includes a combination of rotor preparation, robotic micro-application, specially formulated coating and heated curing process that provides a mechanical bond of coating to rotor surface.

The durability of this process resists particulate and thermal erosion, therefore ensuring years of specified performance. This coating process reduces life-cycle costs by extending the life of the airend while consistently providing the purchased performance.

Austin O’Neill of O’Neill Industrial explained, “Compressor rotors take a beating. Over time, their surfaces can deteriorate, making rotors increasingly susceptible to compressed air impurities and temperature fluctuation, which lead to reduced efficiency, decreased air purity, and compressor failure. Ingersoll Rand eliminates this problem with UltraCoat.”


The HPM motor technology combines the reliability of a permanent magnet rotor with the strength of salient stator coils. The ratio of weight to delivered power is very small (33% of the size of a traditional induction motor with three times the magnetic flux). This allows the HPM motor to be directly attached to the bull gear shaft of the oil free compression module. This arrangement eliminates the energy and maintenance costs associated with the friction inherent in motor bearings.

Plus, the HPM motor technology has the ability to start and stop as frequently as low air demand dictates with no damage to the motor; therefore saving the energy costs associated with poor specific power performance of the compressor when running at low speeds which is a feature of other compressors in the market.

CLICK TO ENLARGE A schematic of the compressed air system

The next key differentiator of the system was the addition of the Ingersoll Rand Intelligent System Controller Model X8I and an Ingersoll Rand Visualization Software Package for Air System Monitoring. Through the installation of both software packages, Hovione has enhanced control over operating costs, energy efficiencies and reliability.

Less energy wastage

“As much as 20% to 60% of the energy used to operate compressed air systems is wasted. This is primarily due to operating more compressors than necessary, operating the wrong combination of compressors or maintaining elevated system pressure. The Ingersoll Rand X-Series System Automation eliminates the complexity of compressor control co-ordination and waste by managing up to eight positive displacement compressors simultaneously,” explained O’Neill.

This means compressors only operate as needed, bringing standby compressors on-line incrementally during periods of peak demand. In addition to optimising energy use, efficient compressor utilisation reduces costs by reducing downtime and extends the period between scheduled preventive maintenance.

Plus, the compressed air system is managed at the minimum required pressure without compromising air supply reliability. Traditionally, ‘cascaded’ pressure settings over a wide pressure range are utilised to operate compressors more effectively. The result is operating the system at elevated pressures for a majority of the time.

Only when the system is at full capacity does the system approach optimum efficiency. However, maintaining system pressure above the optimum pressure in order to provide a comfort factor for periods of sudden demand, or a cascaded pressure control, requires more energy. It also exaggerates artificial demand resulting from the increased air consumption of leaks and poorly regulated air outlets. X-Series Automation eliminates inefficiency by controlling all compressors in a tight pressure band around a single, optimum system pressure.

An energy-control mode feature monitors and ‘learns’ system demand requirements by comparing pressure dynamics with compressor operating capabilities and efficiencies. This means the Hovione system matches supply with demand.

By adding the visualisation software Hovione were given even greater control as they could access diagnostics on pressure and flow, service intervals and more. With a standard PC and Internet explorer they have a window into the compressed air system. They can monitor critical system and equipment parameters, drill down to individual compressors to view operational status and be alerted to any alarm messages.

“In addition to making economic sense, Ingersoll Rand X-Series System Automation makes environmental sense as well, by helping to reduce CO2 emissions created by the generation of electricity. For example, a 75 kW reduction will save an organisation 650,000 kWh per year… this translates into a 450,000kg reduction in CO2 emissions,” noted O’Neill.

The criteria set out by Hovione at the start of the project have been met. Commenting on the success of the installation, Kenneth Lloyd, Hovione, said, “The key considerations for this project were cost and reliability. For Hovione, the leasing option afforded the most effective solution because it combined a fixed cost spread over a number of years and covers all maintenance and call outs in one tidy package. I now have an improved level of confidence in the reliability and efficiency of our compressed air system in meeting all of Hovione’s demands.”

For more information, see and O'RiordanMechfacilities management,manufacturing,pharma
Hovione, a Cork-based pharmaceutical firm, has realised multiple benefits from leasing a high-end compressed air system under a lease agreement. The Portuguese pharmaceutical firm acquired its Cork site in 2009. It was a state-of-the-art facility although, inevitably, the company inherited some older equipment. In 2015, it was apparent that...