There is no shame in cutting energy costs, but sometimes the horse simply refuses to be led to water, let alone made to drink. Yet cutting electricity, natural gas or bunker fuel consumption — whatever — can be a quick way to cut overhead in perpetuity. Looked at another way, it is like a new source of guaranteed income.
Vivian Doyle-Kelly, the Montreal-based owner of Eco-Watt Inc., sells energy-saving solutions backed by insured guarantees. Still, the excuses he gets from those not wanting to drink his water are worthy of a novelty coffee cup: too busy, no manpower, other projects, focus on production, ‘gotta get product out the door’ and so on. “People have an attitude that they don’t have time for this,” Doyle-Kelly says.
It is certainly true that saving energy can sometimes require big-ticket projects. Quebec-based Building Products of Canada Corp., to cite a high-end example, has done some major work in its Pointe Rouge, QC, plant to cut its energy costs. These expenses have variously included up to 18 million cubic feet of natural gas, 64 million kWh of electricity and 500,000 litres of bunker fuel a year. Pointe Rouge manufactures wood fibre board to make value-added products like decorative wood panel, industrial panel, sheeting for exterior walls and roof insulation lining.
The plant automated its refiners in 2006-2007, cutting out one phase of the refining process. This resulted in savings of $370,000 a year in electricity. Cutting steam use knocked another $150,000 off the annual electricity bill. Another project will save 2.5 million cubic feet of natural gas and about 5 million kWh of electricity a year, through the installation of a different heat exchanger and a boiler upgrade. Yet another project will eliminate the use of bunker fuel.
Global pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK) issued an edict in 2007 that it would begin a company-wide initiative to conserve energy. The goal is to reduce the 2006 level of energy consumption by 20% by 2015.
The company’s Mississauga, ON, plant started with HVAC and building envelope projects that cut energy use by 5 million kWh, or 10% in 2009. The focus for 2010 is to start saving energy on the production lines through behaviour modification — a low-investment strategy.
“We are trying to make sure operators understand that when lines are not running, that all the equipment and compressed dry air lines are [to be] shut off. Our equipment uses a lot of compressed dry air. We want to make sure that these compressed dry air systems are turned off when they are not needed. There will be, for example, training and signage,” explains Oliver Yeung, an EHS (environment, health and safety) compliance partner at the Mississauga plant.
Compressed air leaks
Another project the Mississauga plant plans to launch soon is the repair of many minute leaks in the compressed dry air system. “A 2007 audit showed that they add up to significant costs,” Yeung says. Very conservatively, GSK could reap a $2 return for each $1 invested in repairing leaks. The actual amount of avoided costs per dollar invested could be far higher.
“There is a significant impact that small actions can have. These are things that anybody can do to save energy,” Yeung suggests.
Sometimes the opportunity to save energy in perpetuity drops into a company’s lap when equipment has to be replaced or upgraded. In April 2010, a new evaporator will come on line at the Acadian Seaplants Ltd. seaweed extraction facility in Cornwallis, NS. Part of the company’s continuous improvement program, it will replace an earlier design dating to 1998 that slurps up 150,000 litres of fuel oil a year. The new evaporator will cut the fuel use in half. Incidentally, adding a cooling tower is going to reduce cooling water requirements by 90%.
Two classes of energy gobblers found in all manufacturing plants are lights and motors, notes Doyle-Kelly. Eco-Watt counts among its projects a lighting retrofit in a bakery, and estimates that such retrofits, as part of a project, can drive down lighting costs down by as much as 50% to 60%. In a building project that should provide inspiration to manufacturing plants, Eco-Watt retrofitted 350 lamps that burned 24/7, dialling down the light bill from $19,000 to just $8,000 a year.
Energy consumption of motors
Regarding motors, Montreal boot manufacturer Genfoot Inc. has completed several projects to save electricity. For example, in the 1990s the company achieved some energy savings by installing capacitors that regulated peak demand. In 2004, just as Genfoot was in the process of taking the next step in saving energy, Eco-Watt made contact with the company about products that it installs, which would cut the cost of running electric motors.
“When Eco-Watt came along, we were consuming as much as $26,000 worth of electricity a month — a lot of energy. We realized that we were due for another improvement,” says Arold Isaac, production manager at Genfoot. “It was good timing. Eco-Watt could go much further and do broader energy savings than just capacitors. They were able to reduce consumption, rather than change how we pay for electricity.”
Doyle-Kelly declines to reveal exactly how his products work, but simply put, the devices are wired to motors and reduce the amount of amperes they draw. In one Genfoot machine, for example, his equipment reduced the amperage draw from 21 down to 15.7. In another, the amperage dropped from 3.3 down to 2.1.
“The total savings for motors is typically 8%,” Doyle-Kelly says. He adds that the technology he uses is passive, maintenance-free and will serve for as long as 20 years.
Eco-Watt began at Genfoot with a plant walkabout. Satisfied that there were energy savings to be had, Doyle-Kelly prepared an audit proposal, then did a plant-wide energy audit. He then prepared a plan that guaranteed a certain amount of energy savings, backed by an insurance company. If the savings amount to less than what Eco-Watt predicted, the policy pays the client the difference.
Isaac confesses to having been somewhat sceptical of the technology Eco-Watt uses to reduce the power that motors draw. “Their technology was new to us. But they took all the measurables; for example, the number of hours the machines operated and the number of motors. When Eco-Watt was convinced that there were dollars to be saved at the end, we started participating.”
Eco-Watt brought in its own electricians to retrofit its amperage-reducing product to the motors, some as large as 50 hp, on 66 pieces of equipment. “We wired up the products, bolted them to the wall near the motors and ran the wires to the motor disconnects. The only downtime for the motor was 10 to 15 minutes when the electricians attached the wires into the motor disconnect,” Doyle-Kelly explains.
Doing the audit and then implementing the project caused only minor inconvenience, Isaac recalls: “We helped Eco-Watt understand the machines and how they consumed electricity. We did not have to invest that much time. Eco-Watt spent two days here on their own after we showed them around.”
Isaac reports that the electricity savings were about 7% in the first year. Doyle-Kelly notes that the payback time to a company on the cost of the turnkey installation of his product is two to three years.
Isaac admits that he was already a convert to the virtues of saving energy and did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the well. “We were already convinced.”
From Doyle-Kelly’s viewpoint, “Genfoot saw this as a no-risk way to generate extra cash at the bottom line.”
Montreal-based Carroll McCormick, an award-winning writer, is the senior contributing editor for Machinery & Equipment MRO.
Reader Service Card No. 400