Chemical Makers Plug Better Energy Efficiency

Firms are striving to achieve increasingly ambitious goals.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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And what happens beyond 2015? Pastore says more aggressive targets currently are being assessed -- and they will require taking new approaches. "For example, ion transport membrane (ITM) technology for air separation. This is especially useful for large IGCC [integrated gasification combined cycle] plants -- and large oxygen plants generally -- and a lot of these will be built in the future. We are also looking for the same step change technology on the HyCO side."

Addressing energy challenges will require smarter, more efficient and sustainable solutions, believes Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont, Wilmington, Del. Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club, she added that conservation and more efficient use of existing fossil fuels are critical: "Success will involve multiple technologies, coupled with innovation and collaboration across companies, borders and sectors."

Just such conservation and efficiency measures led the ACC to bestow two 2010 Energy Efficiency Awards on the company's Chambers Works, Deepwater, N.J., for its efforts to reduce plant energy consumption and minimize energy-related environmental impacts. The over-90-year-old complex, which makes more than 500 products, won in the category of "significant improvement in manufacturing plant site." The awards are given annually to honor chemical manufacturing facilities across the country that demonstrate outstanding results in saving energy and reducing related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Chambers Works awards recognized efforts that contributed to an elimination of 2,540 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

The first winning project -- "reduce steam trap failures" -- was based on a six sigma blackbelt project. A team of five mechanics and a steam trap surveyor surveyed and repaired the site's steam distribution system. This enabled the site to reduce variable steam usage, decrease emissions and increase process uptime.

The second project -- "thermal insulation evaluation and upgrade" -- involved setting up a team to check zones of high energy loss to identify piping and equipment needing insulation repair.

For the last four years, Owens Corning, Toledo, Ohio, has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to improve energy efficiency in its operations. This has involved a combination of technical assistance, tools and training provided by the DOE's Industrial Technologies Program.

One of the key projects is taking place at the company's Santa Clara, Calif., plant that produces 250 million pounds/year of insulation materials. Initially a DOE expert performed an energy assessment on the plant's pumping systems. This identified a number of opportunities, such as consistent operation of the most efficient pumps, retrofitting inefficient pumps, replacing valves and installing variable speed drives -- and generated annual savings of more than $100,000. A subsequent assessment led to putting variable frequency drives on fans and upgrading to a larger compressor.

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