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Energy Conservation Part 1 – Culture

Posted on December 30th, 2016 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

chemical plant

Previous posts discussed the various domains of sustainability as related to instrumentation and control. For review:

Sustainability is the capacity to endure; it is how systems remain productive indefinitely; it is the endurance of systems and processes. Sustainability includes four interconnected domains: processes, economics, politics and culture.

While energy conservation may appear to be at the nexus of processes and economics, it should be understood that developing, approving and implementing energy conservation projects include both politics and culture.

For example, the manager of an integrated power house in a large petrochemical plant would likely be quite open to a project where electricity is generated using a turbine to reduce steam pressure instead of installing a pressure reducing valve. After all, the power house operates and maintains virtually all of the components required for this project on a daily basis.  Barring technical difficulties such as size and space requirements, adding one more turbine would not be a big deal in this culture.

On the other hand, a boiler house in a small chemical plant would likely not even consider this opportunity because it has no infrastructure or experience generating electricity. However if a really large opportunity existed, perhaps a champion might attempt to fight the existing culture to implement the project.  One problem is that plant personnel will likely need to upgrade their skills to operate and maintain unfamiliar equipment and systems.  Overcoming this hurdle often means that the champion needs to fight the existing culture (no current onsite electrical generation) in order to obtain project approval.  Taking culture into consideration when examining the problem heuristically often leads to the conclusion that the opportunity is just not worth the effort — even though the economics reveal more than sufficient justification.

Nonetheless a really large justification can quickly swing the decision toward implementation. Some years ago, my suggestion to install a variable speed drive on the largest motor in the plant was initially dismissed “out of hand”.  After demonstrating a 6-month simple payback, I was asked, “How fast can you implement the project?”

Let’s talk about politics in the next post.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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