You don’t have to look too hard to find news stories (here, here, here) of rising oil prices and their impact on process manufacturers around the globe.
Refineries and petrochemical manufacturing processes can especially require vast amounts of energy to process the feedstocks into intermediate or final products.
I spoke recently with Doug White, who leads our advanced automation services consultants for Emerson Process Management. Some of the folks I’ve written about like James, Eric, and Lou are senior consultants in Doug’s organization.
Doug mentioned that one of the units at which refiners and petrochemical manufacturers should take a close look is the fired heater which provides the required heat for the distillation process. In many plants, these units were built 10-15 years ago or more. Most were built in times when natural gas was extremely inexpensive. There was little need for energy efficient designs–so even today they consume energy at higher rates than they could.
He sees these units as a quick way for manufacturers to save costs and improve their bottom lines.
Doug described these opportunities and gives very practical advice on how to get the project assessed, implemented, and sustained in an Oil & Gas Journal article entitled: Advanced automation technology reduces refinery energy costs. Some steps Doug recommends from the assessment phase:
- Data gathering. Compile information about existing systems.
- Interviews with plant staff. Find current energy-use problem areas, understand current operational procedures, and stimulate ideas on possible changes.
- Evaluation of plant energy economics. Understand what are the major users and their costs of operation.
Doug’s team has packaged some of their expertise coupled with advanced control software into a SmartProcess Heater Optimizer application.
If you are one of the manufacturers struggling with higher energy costs, this article is well worth the read to develop a plan to reduce these high energy costs.
Update: Repaired broken hyperlinks.