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FAQ on Hydrocarbons in Compressed Air Systems

What are hydrocarbons?

Production and quality engineers in industries like food and beverage, pharmaceutical, semiconductor,
and the chemical sectors have established internal specifications for oilfree compressed air. The
product spoilage and safety issues at risk make oilfree compressed air an absolute necessity in certain
Hydrocarbons are better known as oil vapors present in the compressed air system. They are introduced
into compressed air systems by two sources. The most common source is the oil lubrication system of
the air compressors itself. Under the high temperatures during the compression process, liquid oil is
turned into a vapor. The second source is hydrocarbons that are present in the ambient air (like truck
exhaust) that are ingested by the air compressor intake.
How do carbon absorbers remove hydrocarbons?
Unlike oil aerosols, which can be removed by coalescing filters while in their liquid state, hydrocarbons
are difficult to detect and to remove from a compressed air system. Traditionally, activated carbon
filters and towers (carbon absorbers) have been used to remove hydrocarbons. A simple technology, the
carbon bed simply absorbs the hydrocarbons until the bed is saturated. While they do remove
hydrocarbons, carbon filters and towers are dependent upon timely and frequent maintenance to
maintain the necessary performance levels to continuously remove hydrocarbons. Filters, using
elements that are interlaced with charcoal, typically recommend that element replacement is done
every 300 hours at 86 F (30 C). A carbon tower is dramatically better with a maintenance interval of
5,000 hours at 86 F (30 C). However, this is not only costly and time consuming, but if these
schedules are not adhered to diligently then very little risk is mitigated.

Are there other ways to remove hydrocarbons?
The BEKOKAT system literally transforms hydrocarbons, through total oxidation, to produce carbon
dioxide and water. The heart of this next generation system is a very specific type of catalytic
converter, a pressurevessel filled with a catalytic granulate capable of cracking nearly every form of
hydrocarbon chain. The converter is heated to an operating temperature of 302 F. Oilcontaminated
compressed air flows into the pores of the catalytic granulate surface. A chemical reaction occurs and
the oil molecule chains are split apart. The only remaining byproducts are water and carbon dioxide.
The catalytic converter ensures and guarantees the removal of all liquid oils and gaseous hydrocarbons
as well as all bacteria and viruses from the compressed air stream. In comparison to carbon absorbers,
the BEKOKAT system has a recommended maintenance interval of 25,000 hours. Our criticalprocess
customers value the fact that this system virtually eliminates timely maintenance as a factor to be
managed in order to ensure oilfree compressed air.

Why measure hydrocarbons?
Up until now, end users have not had a way of knowing what the hydrocarbon content was in their
compressed air system. They had filters with alarm functions based upon time but little more. They
could send samples off to laboratories and wait to see the results while production continues with
unknown quality. This was also not very satisfactory, not to mention being rather expensive by
This situation led BEKO Technologies to develop the METPOINT OCV hydrocarbon monitoring system.
This innovative and exclusive instrument is designed specifically for compressed air systems wanting
realtime measurement and monitoring of hydrocarbons in their compressed air system.

How are hydrocarbons measured?
A sample is taken from the compressed air line and supplied to the measuring cell. The measuring cell
consists of the reference air generator and the actual measuring cell with a photo ionization detector
(PID) sensor. The reference air generator is actually a miniBEKOKAT that produces a 100% pure and
oilfree gas sample. The zero reference air and the compressed air sample to be measured are supplied
in turns to the measuring cell and are then compared to one another. In the measuring cell, the
hydrocarbon vapor portion is measured via the PID. The resulting electrical signal is amplified and then
For those unfamiliar with PID sensors, the general operating principle works like this. Through the
exposure to UV light, the gas molecules are ionized and accumulate on the electrodes. This results in a
signal which is evaluated subsequent to amplification.

1. Compressor 6. CLEARPOINT Dust Filter w/ BEKOMAT
2. CLEARPOINT Water Separator 7. DRYPOINT RA Refrigerant Air Dryer
3. Receiver Tank 8. CLEARPOINT Super Fine Coalescing Filter w/ Manual
4. BEKOMAT Zero Air Loss Drain 9. METPOINT OCV Measuring Cell
5. BEKOKAT Hydrocarbon Removal System 10. METPOINT OCV Display Unit

H1 / H2 Shutoff Valves for Measuring Section

H3 Shutoff Valve for Bypass

H4 Outlet Valve of Bypass