Alternative Fuels, Increasing Efficiency and Reducing Emissions

by | Feb 18, 2008 | Industrial Energy & Onsite Utilities, Industry

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Editor

At the recent ARC Advisory Group’s Winning Strategies and Best Practices for Global Manufacturers forum in Orlando, Emerson’s Al Novak, director of Alternative Fuels along with Chief Strategic Officer, Peter Zornio and Fisher Controllers Marketing Director, Jack Tan, presented Alternative Fuels–We Are Ready.

ARC’s Larry O’Brien and Control Magazine’s Editor in Chief and Sound Off! blog’s Walt Boyes summarized this presentation very, so make sure to see their accounts.

As the global energy demand continues to grow, so does the need to find alternatives to coal, petroleum, and natural-gas-based energy. The presentation references a Natural Resources and Energy, Japan outlook study (chart) that shows a growth in nuclear, hydroelectric, and renewable energy from 3% in the early 1970’s to a peak forecast of 13% in the coming decades. Although the percentages remain fairly constant, the overall demand for energy grows from just over 4000 to more than 14,000 million tons of crude oil equivalent by 2030.

This growth not only challenges the energy producers, but the automation suppliers who serve them. Al discussed drivers view for the alternative fuels market. As prices of oil and gas continue to rise, so too does the economic viability of alternatives increase. Global concern for carbon dioxide emissions is a second factor. Third is the notion that oil may be approaching “peak production” in the coming decades. And finally, for many countries including the U.S., energy security is a consideration given its central role in the economy.

This presentation discussed some of the types of biofuels including fermentation-based bioethanol, vegetable oil-based biodiesel, cellulose-based ethanol, biomass-to-liquid, synthetic fuels like what is being produced in the Canadian Oil Sands region. Some of these synthetic fuels include integrated gasification combined cycle, coals to liquid fuels, coal to chemical, and coal to gas (natural gas and hydrogen.)

This presentation covered a number of ways Emerson’s automation technologies are helping. It’s worth mentioning that automation has played a very important role for all process manufacturers in reducing their energy needs and increasing overall efficiency. One example is advanced control technologies like model predictive control becoming available at the automation controller level, down from a host computer-level application. Once, this technology because of its cost was available only to large-scale refining and petrochemical manufacturers. Now, units within most any production facility can run more efficiently, since these units are controlled as units and not as a collection of interacting loops, which must be constantly adjusted based on changing process conditions.

Examples specific to alternative fuel projects include synthetic fuel gasification and Fisher C1 Series controllers and transmitters that reduce methane emissions Rosemount Sapphire temperature sensor tubes are another technology which prevent emissions releases that occur when traditional sensor tubes break.

Ovation systems, Fisher valves, and Rosemount instrumentation play large roles in nuclear energy facilities and Ovation systems help manage wind energy/wind farm networks. The latest Rosemount Analytical O2 analyzers improve boiler and furnace efficiency while helping to reduce emissions.

The point as I see it is that there are technologies from Emerson and other suppliers at the sensing, control and automation, and final control which are not only helping these emerging alternative fuel sources, but also the efficiency and reduced emissions of existing process manufacturers.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.