Oilfree – our solutions for sensitive applications

Oil- and germ-free compressed air – causes, problems and solutions

In many production facilities, compressed air comes directly or indirectly into contact with production lines, products or packaging materials. Contamination through residual oil content, micro-organisms and germs then has significant consequences for product quality, consumer safety and market reputation.

Stiftung Warentest reports mineral oils in chocolate, Foodwatch denounces the dangers of food packaging. We are all familiar with reports like these about contamination and deficits in the quality of the final product. And we are familiar with the consequences, too: uncertainty among customers and retail traders, a stir in the press, non-objective discussions and last but not least damage to reputations.

The use of compressed air in areas where human health can potentially be harmed by compressed air makes special requirements on the cleanness of the compressed air. For this reason, it is particularly important.


How does compressed air become oil-contaminated?

There are many ways for contamination factors such as particles, oils, germs and humidity to enter the compressed air. They are often already present in the ambient air and get into the compressed air system through the compressor intake air. The reason for the contamination can be a major road or construction site nearby, for example. The risk of humidity occurring in the compressed air system increases with air humidity in the ambient air.

The contamination presents a double risk: on the one hand, it can impair the function of the compressed air plant and lead to premature wear of plant components, on the other it presents a real risk to the quality of the final product and thus the consumer.

Possible sources of contamination


Additional hazards exist depending on the direct surroundings and individual circumstances: in addition to dust and humidity, oil and micro-organisms can also get into the compressed air system via the ambient air.


Not only oil-lubricated but also oil-free compressors (via intake air!) can be a source of residual oil vapours in the compressed air network.


Valves and fittings. Numerous components in the compressed air system are lubricated with greases or silicones to improve their function. These can easily get into the compressed air.


Once contaminated, there is a constant risk: over the years, deposits can build up in existing pipelines and influence the compressed air flowing through them.


What challenges face the various industries when it comes to oil entry?

Faulty product quality, machine damage, scrap, rework and recall campaigns for industrial goods that are caused by oil breakthrough are less well known to the general public than the problems mentioned above. However, they cause substantial financial damage, particularly in the following branches and applications:


Producing oil-free compressed air

Generally speaking, there are several ways of producing oil-free compressed air. The special requirements must be given careful consideration during planning. This starts with the question of whether oil-free compressed air has to be available centrally or whether treatment can be decentral, since only part of the flow is subject to particularly high requirements.

Technical solutions for oil-free compressed air

Use cases

Oil-free solutions in the various industries

Each industry has its own specific applications and therefore individual requirements for the quality of its compressed air. There are specific purity classes for compressed air quality and industry-specific standards, laws or guidelines.

Here you can find out in detail what challenges are typical for the individual industries and how companies have implemented oil-free compressed air efficiently and safely in their production.

Compressed air treatment in the beverage industry

Every hour, 150 cubic meters of purest mineral water are produced by the 14 wells of RheinfelsQuellen in Duisburg-Walsum. Enough to fill 883 bathtubs every 60 minutes – or more than 207,000 bottles. To add sparkle to the water, there is only one solution: oil-free compressed air fed to state-of-the art bottling plants and peripheral systems. The company uses an innovative catalytic process for the total oxidation of hydrocarbons in the compressed air system.

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Surface cleaning at HELLA KGaA Hueck & Co.

Blowing of high-performance electronics via pulsating rotary jets, and tracing of plastic housings with cleaning plasma jets: At the German automotive supplier Hella, compressed air takes over the central tasks in the surface cleaning of safety-relevant components. The most important requirement in this respect: the reliable, complete absence of oil.

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Oil-free compressed air at LAVAZZA

Control air is needed in the hybrid version of the ALSTOM shunting locomotive built in Stendal in order to supply the brake system with purificated compressed air. For this application, DRYPOINT M membrane dryers and CLEARPOINT filters are used.

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Safe oil-free compressed air for pharmaceutical production

For the production of medicaments, the strictest hygienic standards apply to the production conditions. This of course also applies to the required compressed air. It must be absolutely free from oil in order not to contaminate the sensitive products. In its factory in Singen, Germany, drug manufacturer Nycomed relies on a comprehensive system solution provided by BEKO to treat the process air in a reliably oil-free manner.

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More info on oil-free solutions

Would you like to know more? In our media library you will find further information about compressed air, treatment technologies and branch-specific knowledge.



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