Achieving Energy Efficiency In Chemical Plants

June 20, 2021

The chemical industry is one of the oldest industries in the US. Often referred to as the cornerstone of the manufacturing sector, the industry has seen steady growth over the past few decades and currently stands as one of the most energy-consuming industries in the country. The necessity of the industry to optimize its energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint cannot be stressed enough. 

There is also a huge profit incentive in reducing energy usage. The plants can save millions of dollars on costs for electricity by introducing methods to optimize energy usage. Because of the magnitude of its energy use, the sector has always been encouraged by the government to conserve and reduce its consumption rates. 

Improve Existing Production Processes

By implementing new control methods and optimization to existing processes, plants can save a significant amount of energy. The traditional production system involves monitoring and manipulating parts of the plant without much concern for future energy use. But the introduction of new techniques and the building of predictive models can help the plants set new targets that consume less energy. This is considered a feed-back driven method of production. The model reads in values from the plant, assesses the operating environments, evaluates the conditions under which the plant will maximize the money while consuming the least possible energy, then moves the plant to the new target conditions. The recent advancements in digital technology like sensors and internet-of-things, combined with data analytics, can accurately suggest operational requirements and changes to be made in order to save energy.

Commercialization of New Processes

Along with retrofitting existing systems and processes, plants can also adopt new energy-efficient processes in plants. There is also an increased focus on reducing the chemical carbon footprint by emphasizing recycling and producing energy from chemical wastes. This serves multiple purposes. Along with reducing the carbon footprint that the chemical waste leaves behind after the manufacturing process, the energy produced from the waste can replace a portion of the energy requirements for the plant, thereby saving money in electricity bills. 

Investing in Renewables

Many chemical companies are investing in renewable raw materials and plant equipment. There has also been an increase in the emphasis on research and development of new materials and energy-efficient components that are eco-friendly and recyclable. These closed-loop systems with suitable raw materials can save companies millions of dollars in the long run, making the entire supply chain sustainable. 

Incremental Improvements 

Manual processes are largely energy-driven. There are many advantages to digitizing components of the supply chain. Although it might sound irrelevant, merely digitizing the administrative aspects of running the plants and doing away with manual printers and documents plants can save quite a lot of energy in the longer run. Installing sensors that will automate the lighting conditions of the plants will also have an impact. Installation of variable frequency drives on equipment motors to consume energy according to flow and not just utilize a standard rate can also be a significant driver of reduced energy use. Wherever possible, solar panels and other renewable sources can be installed as alternatives to the electricity from power grids. There should be a broad-based evaluation of energy needs of the plant, and changes, no matter how small they seem, should be carried out to maximize the energy efficiency of the plant. 

The increasing awareness about the impact chemical industries have on the environment and the scientific consensus about climate change have demanded that all industries strive to minimize their carbon footprints and ensure that their growth is sustainable and friendly to the environment. Chemical suppliers should take proactive steps to make their supply chain as green as possible to sustain their profits in the longer term. 

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