What Is Used To Control The Flow Of A Process Measurement Is the First Step to Energy Efficiency

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Measurement Is the First Step to Energy Efficiency

Now that the economy has cooled, it’s a good time for manufacturers to decide how best to align their business with managing energy consumption and costs by developing and implementing an energy management initiative.

Much like a continuous process improvement program, an energy management initiative will first address low-hanging fruit, such as turning off lights when not in use and installing energy-efficient lighting. The real cost-effectiveness will be in solving energy-intensive systems such as process heating, steam, compressed air, fans and pumps.

Reciprocating equipment, such as pumps, fans and compressors, are often oversized by design. While oversizing provides room for error, it also causes excessive energy consumption and increased wear and tear, leading to premature equipment failure. Using technologies in predictive maintenance strategies can reduce energy consumption and monitor asset performance.

In oil and gas applications, it is common practice to control the output of variable torque loads (such as pumps, fans and blowers) by throttling their input or output. This method, however, is ineffective. In contrast, using VSDs with large fans and pumps to control flow by modulating their speed can produce significant energy savings. The higher the level of engine run time and the greater the variation in load duty cycles, the greater the potential for savings.

Manufacturers can use intelligent field instruments to reduce energy costs. Intelligent Coriolis flow meters, for example, can be used to improve the measurement of fuel gases. Electrical and motor control centers can also be integrated into plant asset management (PAM) systems, enabling early detection of impending device failures. In addition, intelligent relays can provide valuable diagnostic data to PAM systems, including breaker wear indication, transformer temperature and life expectancy, motor thermal capacity and statistics, and time-stamped sequence of events reports. Some vendors also integrate machine health management into PAM systems.

Many process manufacturers already use optimization and simulation software to reduce energy costs. In energy-intensive operations in refineries and chemical plants, energy consumption can vary significantly due to changing operating conditions, equipment degradation, and inefficient management strategies. The result is higher energy consumption than necessary, but plants cannot improve efficiency because they lack the means to collect and analyze real-time performance data. Instead, they only have access to historical performance data and cannot take corrective action until it is too late. End users not only want real-time solutions that notify them when a plant’s energy consumption is higher than it should be – they also want intelligent solutions that provide plant personnel with concrete advice to return the plant to optimal energy consumption.

Condition monitoring is a predictive maintenance technique primarily used to monitor rotating equipment. Condition monitoring can help manufacturers detect subtle changes in performance, allowing maintenance to be planned or other actions taken to avoid equipment failure and its consequences. Vibration analysis compares vibration magnitude to historical baseline values ​​to detect changes in equipment condition. Although this is the most commonly used condition monitoring technology, others include corrosion detection.

Many plants waste significant amounts of energy simply because their energy consumption is not based on actual production requirements. Industrial ovens, lights, air conditioners and other energy-intensive assets are often left on during lunch breaks, evenings, weekends and other times when they are not needed. Operations management systems can help determine the optimal energy consumption for an application based on actual production activity in real time, ensuring that energy is used in the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount. An operations management system can also provide visibility into energy consumption and generate alarms when energy loss is detected.

Operations management systems can also reduce energy consumption using sophisticated algorithms to optimize resource deployment. For example, dynamic optimization of plant material routes or logistics routes in a fragmented supply chain significantly saves energy and greatly reduces transportation costs. These systems can also generate energy cost savings by scheduling specific energy-intensive activities at times of day when energy costs are lowest.

The age-old process control credo, “you can’t control what you can’t measure,” translates quite nicely to the field of energy management. For all those who want to control their energy costs, the starting point should be a comprehensive energy assessment to determine how much energy is being used and how much can be saved. Regular energy audits should be conducted at least once a year to measure the progress of energy management initiatives based on established metrics and KPIs. Having a system in place to collect, manage, and analyze energy usage data can also greatly impact the effectiveness of an energy management program, while supporting a company’s efforts to assess and, ultimately, reduce its overall carbon footprint.

Applications such as advanced process control, energy management software packages, and decision support can be used to optimize processes and coordinate energy management activities across functional areas in a plant.

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