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Chemical makers are always looking for affordable ways to increase the sustainability of their operations. Fortunately, there are a number of inexpensive steps you can take to improve the triple bottom line of people, plant, and profit. To get started, consider these ideas from this recent article in Chemical Processing.
Refine Loop Control
If you can only focus on one sustainability measure, make it loop tuning. Inefficient loop control causes valves to oscillate more than necessary, which leads to premature wear, more frequent replacement, and greater power usage. By contrast, a well-tuned loop can produce a desired output repeatably, accurately, and efficiently. Plus the payback period is often only a matter of hours.
Implement Regular Boiler Maintenance
Poorly maintained package boilers typically consume more fuel than necessary, so they increase a plant’s carbon footprint and waste money. To improve boiler efficiency, you’ll want to reduce stack losses, minimize air leaks, improve heat transfer, and recover waste heat. In some cases, you may even need to consider replacing an old system with one that provides more effective boiler control.
Fix Steam Leaks
A leaking steam trap that’s only 1/8-in. in diameter can cost a plant almost $15,000 per year – and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 15-20% of all steam traps leak. Not only is this expensive, it’s dangerous. You can limit these costs and hazards by conducting an annual steam-leak survey or using an ultrasonic detector to identify leaks that might otherwise be obscured by insulation.
Upgrade Motor Control
Every centrifugal pump operates most efficiently at a specific flow rate, but traditional, fixed-speed pump motors can’t consistently maintain this optimal rate. Variable-frequency drives (VFDs), on the other hand, adjust the motor speed to provide the ideal flow rate. A pump with a VFD also consumes less power the slower it operates, which reduces overall operating costs.
Install LED Lighting
For a quick efficiency boost, update plant lighting. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) use less energy, last longer, and radiate less heat than fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. And LED lighting is now available for Class I, Division II locations. Energy monitoring indicates that the payback period for installing LEDs is usually under four years, and state rebate programs may help you attain your ROI even faster.
The quest for sustainability is ongoing. To realize yearly savings, you’ll want to implement a formal program to identify new opportunities and build on previous improvements. You can read this full article, Improve Sustainability on a Shoestring, for more detailed suggestions.