Have you considered your air compressor as a potential bomb?
If you have not, then you better!
Although air compressors are built to withstand high pressures, and will have all necessary relief valves to take care of normal occurring overpressures, explosion involving fire propagation is another matter.
How can a fire occur in an air compressor?
In order to understand phenomenon of explosion, we have to understand nature of fire, because, after all, an explosion is a very rapid propagation of fire.
A fire will only start whenever three conditions are met - fuel, oxygen and heat.
An air compressor when operating will have a very rich supply of oxygen already in place - pressurized oxygen.
Where do we get fuel?
If you use oil lubricated air compressors, lubricating oil can become source of fuel. It can also be in form of carbon dust. Carbon is formed when oil is heated to high temperatures.
How is it possible to have high temperatures to ignite combustible mixture?
There can be a lot of reasons - lack of lubrication due to oil deterioration, reduced lubricating quality of oil, oil pump mechanism fault, oil filter choked, worn out parts leading to lessen oil pressures, etc. Whenever there is a hotspot sufficient to ignite combustible mixture an explosion will occur. That is extreme case.
Let's see what can happen that can lead to that extreme case of an explosion.
All above reasons for lubrication failure or deterioration will gradually cause machine to operate poorly, wear out moving parts, cause oil spills and carry over of oil in air passages and increased heat built-up.
Now comes cooling part. Is there a lack of cooling? If high temperatures due to rubbing of parts from above are not cooled down sufficiently, heat will build up. The intercoolers play a very important role in removing heat?
There are also many other reasons for lack of cooling.
When heat transfer surfaces have been coated by films of scale or carbon it will definitely affect cooling process. The heating surfaces may have been reduced due to choked passages for cooling medium in heat exchanger. The cooling medium itself may be too hot probably due to a fault in another machine like cooling tower where heat can be taken away to atmosphere.