Recently I spoke at a Chemical Processing Energy Efficiency webinar about valuable software tools offered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). These tools can be extremely helpful to engineers attempting to improve their plant’s energy efficiency. For those of you who did not attend the June 18th session, a recorded copy of the webinar is available online. Here, I’ll review the gist of the presentation.
The software tools have been developed over the past 20 years by industry experts and organizations and are based on the fundamental principles of physics and thermodynamics. All these tools are vendor neutral and focus on the technology applications. They can be accessed free from the DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office Energy Resource Center website.
My intention here is to raise your awareness about the existence of these tools. Both junior engineers and senior subject matter experts will find them useful. For those of you starting fresh in chemical plants, refineries and other processing facilities, you will want to begin with the Energy Footprint and Plant Energy Profiler software tools that can help you understand energy supply and demand at your plants. Every plant is different and these tools allow you to understand energy usage in your systems so that you can prioritize and target your systems for energy efficiency. Generally, start with these two tools and then review them every few years.
The next set of software tools are system-focused and can be used frequently. They are developed to manage and optimize the plant’s energy systems and equipment. The overall premise and methodology for all the software tools is similar:
• Understand the current operating conditions and model the existing system (base case).
• Identify potential improvement opportunities and simulate how the system would operate with these projects implemented (optimized case).
• Summarize the energy and operating cost differences between the optimized case and the base case.
Our plants need thermal energy for generating steam and for process heating. The Steam System Modeler allows you to model and optimize your complete steam system with multiple headers, including all the major steam system equipment in your plant. This is a web-based tool only and works exactly like the Excel-based Steam System Assessment Tool (SSAT). The Process Heating Assessment and Survey Tool (PHAST) simulates individual process heaters and then compiles them for the whole plant. Detailed analysis on process heaters such as heat recovery, excess air controls and heat losses can be modeled in this software tool.
Pumping systems are a major user of electrical energy in chemical plants and refineries. Using the Pumping System Assessment Tool (PSAT) software tool allows users to model individual pumps (and systems) to identify inefficiencies in the pumping systems and provide a level of optimization versus what is achievable for the system.
Compressed air systems can be extensive. Using the Airmaster+ software allows for baselining the current operations and simulating the optimal scenario. Fans and blowers systems can use the Fan System Assessment Tool (FSAT) for undertaking very similar analysis, as in the case of pumping systems. Lastly, MotorMaster+ can be used for specific targeted cases that focus on motor efficiency, upgrades, rewinds, etc.
The software tools have a few caveats:
• They are designed to model steady-state, steady-flow conditions. Hence, dynamic responses should not be modeled. However, a “bin analysis” can be done to model seasonality, production levels, etc.
• They require some level of understanding and a good feel of the physical and practical conditions and constraints at the plant level.
• They are very good fundamentally but the engineer needs to apply them correctly. Developing a system model is easy but developing a system model that accurately represents what is happening in the system at your plant is the challenge.
So with these tools at your disposal, step up to the plate and take this challenge to improve industrial energy efficiency!
Riyaz Papar, PE, CEM, is director, Global Energy Services, at Hudson Technologies Company, Pearl River, N.Y. He has more than 20 years of experience in industrial energy systems and with best practices. He also is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Steam Best Practices senior instructor and a DOE steam energy expert. He has provided energy consulting services in 100+ industrial plants in the U.S. and internationally. You can email him at email@example.com.