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Energy Conservation Part 4 – Environmental Impact

Posted on January 19th, 2017 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence


In the previous post, a process change reduced the amount of fuel necessary to produce a given amount of steam resulting in significant energy cost savings over the intended life of the equipment. Savings of a “measly” USD 50 per hour could result in the individual originating the project to be labeled as a frugal, greedy and cheap person who is looking for every last penny in a plant with multi-million dollar annual sales.  Looking at the larger picture might just reveal that this person is perhaps more forward-thinking than one might suspect.

Aside from energy savings of approximately USD 13 million over its 30-year life, reducing the amount of fuel consumed reduces the amount of fuel that must be extracted from the ground and therefore the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere. While people might disagree about the effects of global warming, most people would likely agree that not extracting the saved energy from the ground and not emitting the carbon monoxide it would produce is more benign to the environment.

Lower plant fuel consumptions will also reduce the amount of energy required to transport the fuel to the plant and proportionately reduce emissions. Solid waste requirements and emissions are similarly reduced for solid fuels such as coal.  Landfill requirements that are costly and not environmentally friendly are reduced, as are the emissions associated with transporting the waste to the landfill.

Many plants burn and/or incinerate their wastes to produce steam and other forms of energy — supplementing with purchased fuel as needed. Reducing fuel consumption will displace purchased energy and create benefits similar to those described previously.  The (somewhat rare) exception would be when the plant needs no purchased fuel and must otherwise dispose of its leftover waste.  Renewable energy can exhibit similar benefits by displacing purchased energy.

The long and short of this discussion is that energy conservation might make the person or group originating the project seem frugal, greedy and cheap (as previously suggested). However this analysis suggests that this group of people have been moving industry to reduce its carbon footprint and become more “green” before being “green” was the way to be.

Let’s discuss innovation in the next post.

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

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