Compressor Oil and Food Contamination Risks
In a large industrial food plant the risk of oil contamination is a
very real problem especially with regard to a compressed air system.
Any accidental contact of petroleum non-food grade oil with food or beverage
products in the plant during processing can cause thousands of dollars in lost
revenues, as per FDA guidelines, the batch must be discarded.
In most food plants, compressed air comes into contact with the food
products, either directly or indirectly through air tools and air operated
equipment. Air compressors that are oil lubricated normally pass 2 to 3
parts per million of oil downstream into the airline when the oil separator
filters are clean. This can add up to gallons of oil downstream in a years
time depending on the size of your compressor. Additionally, as the
pressure drop across the oil separator increases, the oil carryover will
likewise increase. The only two options are to use an oil free compressor,
or to use food grade lubricants, both of which will cost you additional money.
An oil free compressor is normally twice as expensive as an oil lubricated one.
This is why most plants opt to use a lubricated compressor with food grade oil.
Filters can be installed downstream that can catch even the oil vapors, and if a
little food grade oil passes downstream, it will be acceptable as long as it is
within the FDA guidelines.
Food grade Oil is odorless, tasteless and colorless and can be formulated to
meet H1 and H2 requirements for food industry use. Compressor oil will
pass downstream of the compressor into your downstream filters, so duplicate
filtration is recommended, and a routine preventative maintenance program is
required to ensure that the filters are maintained. But with proper care,
and a quality food grade lubricant, the risks associated with oil carryover and
food contamination can be substantially minimized.