I was catching up on some of my industry-based RSS feeds and came upon an Energy Pathfinder blog post, Taming Energy Costs While Going Green: An Open Letter to Corporate America. The blog’s author, Christopher Russell, asks and answers:
Energy cost control… Green marketing… Can you be successful at both? The answer is “yes,” but you should be prepared to manage both in a combined effort.
What caught my eye was his fourth point:
Harvest more value from your existing process control systems. Companies everywhere are relying on information systems to manage their core production processes. It’s a small effort to amend those same systems to accommodate energy performance monitoring. Energy savings can increase the returns on existing control systems.
I ran this post by Emerson’s Bob Sabin, an energy management specialist. You may recall Bob from earlier posts on boilers and energy management. With the rapid escalation in energy prices, you might imagine that the energy management team is pretty busy–and you’d be right.
I asked Bob for his thoughts on this fourth point, and he had a great response:
I believe it is true that many existing process control systems can be amended or enhanced to provide additional value in energy performance improvement. In the simplest case, the energy performance of most any process equipment can be closely monitored for efficiency of energy use. Trends of energy efficiency can be examined over time, and when degradation is seen, the root cause can be quickly identified and remedied. Monitoring of efficiency can be done locally at the plant/mill site, or it can be handled remotely by a central team or service provider.
In addition, processes can often be run with less variability such that they can be pushed nearer to their constraints. Being nearer to process constraints frequently brings the benefit of improved energy efficiency. Enhancing controls will drive reduced variability by allowing full automatic operation for a higher percentage of time and/or providing calculations that compensate for incoming variability.
Further, for sites that have complexity in operation that affects energy use, it can be beneficial to provide enhanced information systems capability that will support profitable operations decision making.
Often, energy needs, energy prices, and operating scenarios change so quickly and with so many permutations that it is virtually impossible for operations personnel to determine the single most profitable operating scenario at any given time. An Energy Management Information System (EMIS) can deliver this information in real time every day, all day.
An EMIS consists of a model of the processes involved that is automatically fed process data and gathers or takes user entered cost data. The EMIS model arrives at the most profitable operating scenario based on current production needs, actual costs in play, and the constraints that are in place for process operation. Emerson supports process manufacturers with various types of performance monitoring, variability reduction, and EMIS implementations.
As with most things we do, focus can produce results. In this case, energy savings can be achieved by leveraging and amending the existing process control and information systems. Depending on your plant or mill’s energy consumption, it may be worth the development of models to compare actual operating conditions against the ideal case for optimum profitability.