Oil-free compressors were once believed to be the only solution for meeting industry-specific air quality standards. Today, Mattei is changing the game.

shutterstock_161675357Many industries need oil-free air for a number of operations and for compliance with regulations allowing only trace amounts of residual oil in their air. Often, companies invest in expensive oil-free compressors to meet those demands.

However, oil filtration technology has reached a point where lubricated compressors may not only sufficiently meet stringent air purity standards — but may be the more functional and cost-effective choice.  

Cleaning Up Your Act

Companies in pharmaceuticals, food and beverage processing, and other industries surrounding consumer packaged goods are subject to even stricter air quality standards than most businesses, as oil contamination can have a more detrimental effects in these fields.

FDA manufacturing, packaging, storing, and labeling regulations prohibit the presence of water, debris, and oil particles in the air used in these operations. Because of this, many systems designers choose to install oil-free compressors – which operate without oil in the compression chamber – instead of lubricated ones.

Mythbusting Oil-Free Compressors

As it turns out, oil-free compressors aren’t as infallible as they’re often made out to be. On average, oil-free compressors are 30 to 50% more expensive than traditional lubricated compressors, setting the expectation that they will be worth the investment and that the air can’t be contaminated.

As it turns out, oil can still enter the air via other sources. Oil-free compressors use oil in other parts of the system which are sealed off from the compression chamber. Seal breakage can result in significant waste and downtime. Therefore, air from oil-free compressors requires the same level of careful filtration as lubricated compressors to remain compliant. In addition, oil-free compressors use more energy and require more maintenance than their lubricated counterparts.

A Surprising Contender 

The good news is that oil-free compressors aren’t the only way to meet air quality regulations. When fitted with food-grade lubricants and a dedicated filtration system, lubricated compressors can achieve air of the same purity as oil-free compressors while providing cost and energy savings.

At first glance, an oil-free compressor may seem like a simpler solution than a lubricated compressor with proper filtration, but in the long run, lubricated compressors win out. They’re substantially less expensive to purchase and run, are less prone to failure, and are up to 15% more efficient than oil-free compressors. Because the oil inside these machines acts as a coolant, up to 80% of the heat they generate is removed, increasing the lifespan and energy efficiency of the compressor. 


At Mattei, we believe that lubricated compressors offer the best value for food and beverage applications. Our food-grade lubricants and Absolute Zero Oil-Free Air System ensure that your Mattei compressor will produce the purest air possible, making compliance a breeze. For over 50 years, our rotary vane compressors have delivered the highest level of efficiency, durability, and safety for operations in every industry, and we’re proud to offer those benefits to the food and beverage industry.

Topics: Air Compressor, Oil-Free


Additional Resources

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Benefits of Rotary Vane Air Compressors Download eBook
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