The Energy Diet
By: Carroll McCormick
Saving Energy In Industrial
Facilities Starts With A Positive Attitude, Just Like A Real Diet.
There is no shame in cutting energy
costs, but sometimes the horse simply refuses to be led to water,
let alone made to drink. Yet cutting electricity, natural gas or
bunker fuel consumption -- whatever -- can be a quick way to cut
overhead in perpetuity. Looked at another way, it is like a new
source of guaranteed income.
Vivian Doyle-Kelly, the
Montreal-based owner of Eco-Watt Inc., sells energy-saving solutions
backed by insured guarantees. Still, the excuses he gets from those
not wanting to drink his water are worthy of a novelty coffee cup:
too busy, no manpower, other projects, focus on production, 'gotta
get product out the door' and so on. "People have an attitude that
they don't have time for this," Doyle-Kelly says.
It is certainly true that saving
energy can sometimes require big-ticket projects. Quebec-based
Building Products of Canada Corp., to cite a high-end example, has
done some major work in its Pointe Rouge, QC, plant to cut its
energy costs. These expenses have variously included up to 18
million cubic feet of natural gas, 64 million kWh of electricity and
500,000 litres of bunker fuel a year. Pointe Rouge manufactures wood
fibre board to make value-added products like decorative wood panel,
industrial panel, sheeting for exterior walls and roof insulation
The plant automated its refiners in
2006-2007, cutting out one phase of the refining process. This
resulted in savings of $370,000 a year in electricity. Cutting steam
use knocked another $150,000 off the annual electricity bill.
Another project will save 2.5 million cubic feet of natural gas and
about 5 million kWh of electricity a year, through the installation
of a different heat exchanger and a boiler upgrade. Yet another
project will eliminate the use of bunker fuel.
Global pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-SmithKline
(GSK) issued an edict in 2007 that it would begin a company-wide
initiative to conserve energy. The goal is to reduce the 2006 level
of energy consumption by 20% by 2015.
The company's Mississauga, ON,
plant started with HVAC and building envelope projects that cut
energy use by 5 million kWh, or 10% in 2009. The focus for 2010 is
to start saving energy on the production lines through behaviour
modification -- a low-investment strategy.
"We are trying to make sure
operators understand that when lines are not running, that all the
equipment and compressed dry air lines are [to be] shut off. Our
equipment uses a lot of compressed dry air. We want to make sure
that these compressed dry air systems are turned off when they are
not needed. There will be, for example, training and signage,"
explains Oliver Yeung, an EHS (environment, health and safety)
compliance partner at the Mississauga plant.
Compressed air leaks
Another project the Mississauga
plant plans to launch soon is the repair of many minute leaks in the
compressed dry air system. "A 2007 audit showed that they add up to
significant costs," Yeung says. Very conservatively, GSK could reap
a $2 return for each $1 invested in repairing leaks. The actual
amount of avoided costs per dollar invested could be far higher.
"There is a significant impact that
small actions can have. These are things that anybody can do to save
energy," Yeung suggests.
Sometimes the opportunity to save
energy in perpetuity drops into a company's lap when equipment has
to be replaced or upgraded. In April 2010, a new evaporator will
come on line at the Acadian Seaplants Ltd. seaweed extraction
facility in Cornwallis, NS. Part of the company's continuous
improvement program, it will replace an earlier design dating to
1998 that slurps up 150,000 litres of fuel oil a year. The new
evaporator will cut the fuel use in half. Incidentally, adding a
cooling tower is going to reduce cooling water requirements by 90%.
Two classes of energy gobblers
found in all manufacturing plants are lights and motors, notes
Doyle-Kelly. Eco-Watt counts among its projects a lighting retrofit
in a bakery, and estimates that such retrofits, as part of a
project, can drive down lighting costs down by as much as 50% to
60%. In a building project that should provide inspiration to
manufacturing plants, Eco-Watt retrofitted 350 lamps that burned
24/7, dialling down the light bill from $19,000 to just $8,000 a
Energy consumption of
Regarding motors, Montreal boot
manufacturer Genfoot Inc. has completed several projects to save
electricity. For example, in the 1990s the company achieved some
energy savings by installing capacitors that regulated peak demand.
In 2004, just as Genfoot was in the process of taking the next step
in saving energy, Eco-Watt made contact with the company about
products that it installs, which would cut the cost of running
"When Eco-Watt came along, we were
consuming as much as $26,000 worth of electricity a month -- a lot
of energy. We realized that we were due for another improvement,"
says Arold Isaac, production manager at Genfoot. "It was good
timing. Eco-Watt could go much further and do broader energy savings
than just capacitors. They were able to reduce consumption, rather
than change how we pay for electricity."
Doyle-Kelly declines to reveal
exactly how his products work, but simply put, the devices are wired
to motors and reduce the amount of amperes they draw. In one Genfoot
machine, for example, his equipment reduced the amperage draw from
21 down to 15.7. In another, the amperage dropped from 3.3 down to
"The total savings for motors is
typically 8%," Doyle-Kelly says. He adds that the technology he uses
is passive, maintenance-free and will serve for as long as 20 years.
Eco-Watt began at Genfoot with a
plant walkabout. Satisfied that there were energy savings to be had,
Doyle-Kelly prepared an audit proposal, then did a plant-wide energy
audit. He then prepared a plan that guaranteed a certain amount of
energy savings, backed by an insurance company. If the savings
amount to less than what Eco-Watt predicted, the policy pays the
client the difference.
Isaac confesses to having been
somewhat sceptical of the technology Eco-Watt uses to reduce the
power that motors draw. "Their technology was new to us. But they
took all the measurables; for example, the number of hours the
machines operated and the number of motors. When Eco-Watt was
convinced that there were dollars to be saved at the end, we started
Eco-Watt brought in its own
electricians to retrofit its amperage-reducing product to the
motors, some as large as 50 hp, on 66 pieces of equipment. "We wired
up the products, bolted them to the wall near the motors and ran the
wires to the motor disconnects. The only downtime for the motor was
10 to 15 minutes when the electricians attached the wires into the
motor disconnect," Doyle-Kelly explains.
Doing the audit and then
implementing the project caused only minor inconvenience, Isaac
recalls: "We helped Eco-Watt understand the machines and how they
consumed electricity. We did not have to invest that much time.
Eco-Watt spent two days here on their own after we showed them
Isaac reports that the electricity
savings were about 7% in the first year. Doyle-Kelly notes that the
payback time to a company on the cost of the turnkey installation of
his product is two to three years.
Isaac admits that he was already a
convert to the virtues of saving energy and did not have to be
dragged kicking and screaming to the well. "We were already
From Doyle-Kelly's viewpoint, "Genfoot
saw this as a no-risk way to generate extra cash at the bottom
McCormick, an award-winning writer, is the senior contributing
editor for Machinery & Equipment MRO.
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