Energy Efficiency Process Improvements

A quick look at the headlines shows energy prices continuing their high levels. For most process manufacturers, energy is one of the highest operating expenses. I was in meetings last week with several of the industry consultants highlighted on this blog including James Beall, Pete Sharpe, and Bob Sabin.

I went back through the posts we’ve done to pick out some common threads you might consider when you’re looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency of your operations.

In the post, Ongoing Control Performance Improvements, James shares how he has a six-week visit schedule set with a large production facility. The goal is to make sure the control is optimized and remains so for the current state and dynamics of the process. James noted that for optimization projects:

…that are not monitored and maintained typically have a six-month half-life of their benefits. That is, they lose half of their economic benefits every six months if left largely untouched.

Through this control performance program, James works with the plant engineers, who:

…share historical data in areas they suspect may be an opportunity for optimization. This helps focus and prioritize the visit to make sure optimization opportunities are converted. James also highlighted the importance of having the improved performance quantified.

In the Quick Hit Path to Plant Optimization post, Pete shares a self-funding program story through a series of “quick-hit” projects with 6-month payback periods. It began with a prefractionator distillation column on an aromatics extraction unit where the plant wanted to reduce benzene loss in the overhead by 30%, improve the column operating stability, and minimize energy consumed in the distillation process.

Pete work with the plant engineers to apply a Model Predictive Control (MPC)-based distillation optimizer in a project that took 2 weeks and paid for itself in 40 days. The reoccurring savings funded additional energy-saving projects.

In a post, Moving to Leadership in Energy Reduction, Bob shares an ARC Energy Management study, which notes:

Half of the leaders reduced energy consumption by 10-15% each year, while over half the followers made no progress or did not know if they had made any progress.

Bob highlights a continuous improvement cycle, which:

…begins with survey and measurement, followed by actions to fix field devices and loops, followed by equipment repair, followed by unit process optimization, followed by site coordination to drive the entire operation to the best cost point within constraints. Although the process is never ending, the savings are cumulative with each pass through the improvement cycle.

The common thread in these stories is identifying and prioritizing the opportunities for energy savings, executing the opportunities in manageable pieces, and documenting the improvements. Documenting the return on investment helps to justify additional projects and to re-optimize the existing projects over time to continue to capture the improvements.

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