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Energy Conservation Part 3 – Processes and Economics

Posted on January 12th, 2017 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

sustainability process economics

Energy conservation typically involves changing energy-related processes to improve economics while mitigating the detrimental effects of culture and politics.  Note that not only does the previous sentence encompass all four domains that comprise sustainability but it also alludes to inter-dependencies between the process and its economics.  In particular, each process change results in different economics where less than stellar economics results in a search for a better process with better economics — and so on.

The primary incentive to change the process is to improve the economics of the process.  This represents a marked shift from previous thinking where the primary goal in the plant was to produce the product regardless of the amount of energy needed to make the product.  This still occurs in the production of new products — until competition and/or price erosion forces the manufacturer to tighten its belt.

The espousers of energy conservation projects are sometimes labeled as frugal, greedy and cheap people.  There may be some truth in this because process changes that are not related to energy can provide larger economic benefits than process changes related to energy conservation — albeit with more risk.  Nonetheless some energy conservation projects can provide large economic benefits so an argument can be made that these people are more forward-thinking than one might suspect.

For example, a process change associated with an energy conservation project might reduce the amount of fuel necessary to produce a given amount of steam.  The cost of the process change can be estimated and compared with its energy cost savings to determine the viability of the project.  The savings might be a “measly” USD 50 per hour.  This may not look like much until calculating the savings over its estimated 30 year life — approximately USD 13 million.

Let’s continue with this process in the next post.

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

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