Are you light, superficial green? Or are you dark, committed green? For instance, anyone can put a variable-speed drive (VSD) on pumps, fans and other rotating equipment—and almost everyone should, but that's only a good beginning.
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Jim Montague is the Executive Editor at Control, Control Design and Industrial Networking magazines. Jim brings a wealth of automation and controls knowledge to the position. He previously worked at Reed Business Information as News Editor for Control Engineering magazine. Jim has a BA in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and lives in Skokie, Illinois.
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Certainly, $4 to $5 per gallon gas and other skyrocketing energy costs are gouging consumers, businesses and manufacturers alike, so many are undertaking efficiency projects to meet public, investor and government demands. Some programs include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program (www.energystar.gov), sustainability scorecards from Walmart (www.walmart.com) and P&G (www.pg.com) and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (www.sustainability-index.com). However, some individuals and organizations are also asking if they can alter process applications and even questioning whether they need to run some processes at all. These pioneers are trying to take sustainability beyond its initial focus to include making products that are themselves greener and allow users to operate and live more sustainably. In short, sustainability is longer-term and focuses on a widening circle of processes, material producers, users and consumers, while efficiency concentrates on traditional, here-and-now improvements in one or a few devices or operations.
Low-Hanging Efficiency Fruit
Still, despite its narrower focus, basic efficiency can improve operations in huge numbers of equipment and applications, produce massive savings and lay the groundwork that leads to future sustainability.
For instance, China National Petroleum Corp. (www.CNPC.com) recently implemented Invensys Operations Management's (ion.invensys.com) SimSci-Esscor ROMeo process optimization software and services at its Jilin Petrochemical Co., which is reported to be northeast China's largest integrated refining and petrochemical production facility (Figure 1). CNPC is using ROMeo to formulate real-time responses to changes in utilities prices, feedstock variation and process conditions to achieve sustainable energy savings. CNPS reports that the software's off-line operational analysis and on-line plant modeling for ethylene production also lets it study and validate the feasibility of various energy-saving strategies and parameters affecting energy saving before implementation. ROMeo was applied to Jilin's entire ethylene complex, including 10 cracking furnaces and quenching, compression, cracking and separation equipment across its 700,000 tons-per-year ethylene production unit, and helped reduce the refinery's energy consumption by 5% overall.
"CNPC is devoted to reducing our worldwide carbon emissions, and one of the best approaches is to invest in technology that can maximize our energy efficiency," said Liu Hongji, deputy factory director at CNPC Jilin. "ROMeo software helps us save energy, improve visibility into our operations and drive productivity. It also reduced the energy consumption of our ethylene production unit and improved the whole plant's effectiveness."
Similarly, to reduce its huge gas, electric and water bills and comply with national energy use and emissions regulations, Lian Yuan Steel (www.lysteel.com) in Loudi City, central Hunan province, China, had already upgraded its equipment and processes, but recently decided to seek further gains by consolidating the plant's comprehensive energy data and analyzing it for improved scheduling and management decisions. The 1200-square-meter plant and its 15,000 employees coke, smelt, sinter and roll more than 6.5 million tonnes of sheet, rebar and other steel per year and earn more than $3 billion (Figure 2).