Energy Management and Decarbonization: Plant-wide Assessment and Implementation for the Process Industry
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- 30/11/2023 - 10:00 am - 10:45 am EST
Energy management is at the focal point of competitiveness of the chemical process industry all around the world. While the contribution of renewables in all forms was around 29 per cent globally, energy security is still a concern for most of the developing countries. The modern concept of the Triple Bottom Line (consisting of people, planet and profit) has made it imperative to look beyond only the commercial impact but to reconsider the strategies for achieving a more sustainable growth, with environment as one of the most critical aspects.
The chemical process industry is a major consumer of oil and gas, with the oil consumption being 14% and 8% being that of gas. In terms of direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the chemical industry ranks only third – behind iron & steel, and cement. The rising demand for chemicals and shrinking profitability have made sure that, these industries look beyond the conventional ways of energy conservation.
A systematic way of implementing an energy management program should start with site assessment, followed by benchmarking studies and gap analysis that indicates the (untapped) potential of saving energy consumption in the existing facility. Once this is done, the next step is to identify the top candidates to be targeted for energy reduction. These are the major “profit-suckers” and should be prioritized based on their contributions towards the KPIs such as (i) energy consumption, (ii) relative costs and (iii) carbon footprint.
In a layered approach for energy management, these consumers are broadly classified into the following three categories: (i) asset level, (ii) process level and (iii) utility level. This is very important as, critical assets such as compressors and heat exchangers often operate at much less than their optimum capacities, and addressing the performance and health issues could lead to the benefits such as reduction in unplanned downtime and increased efficiencies. Advanced digital technologies such as predictive maintenance and digital twin help address these issues.
A process level analysis involves identifying the areas of making the existing operations better and more efficient. Two of the main reasons of such process inefficiencies are: (i) fluctuations inherent to the process and (ii) process variables beyond the control of an operator (often termed as “disturbance variables”. Since the operator does not have a complete visibility over the process, there is a tendency to operate the process conservatively, leading to profit leaks. By implementing the digital solutions such as decision support system, process digital twin and advanced process control (APC), the process inefficiencies could be reduced to a large extent.
The third layer of an energy management study is the utility system. In this, the utilities such as steam, electricity and natural gas are analysed in a holistic manner and possible ways of minimizing their consumption are identified. One of the examples of this is improving the thermal efficiency of a furnace. By analysing the interacting process variables, such as excess air or oxygen percentage, air and fuel flow, the overall fuel consumption could be significantly reduced. Also, a plantwide analysis of overall hot and cold utilities using heat integration (also called as the “pinch analysis”) could help one arrive at the minimum required duties.
The advent of digital solutions has enabled the chemical process industry to a great extent, despite the fact that, compared to the IT and other manufacturing industries, it is still at a nascent stage. A mindful use of the technology has promised a great value to its adopters. The transition from L0 to L4 and L5 levels have their proportional (and if possible, exponential) returns on investment. In the best possible way, a combination of multiple solutions and technologies, especially the ones that are most relevant to the chemical process industry (such as modelling and simulation, data analytics and a combination of both, and a few more tools and techniques such as advanced process control) will surely shift the paradigm of the energy management.
In the current webinar, we discuss a systematic methodology to identify the potential areas for energy savings in a typical chemical plant. Also, we prioritize the solutioning approach at various levels: equipment, process and utilities. Finally, we discuss the potpourri of advanced digital solutions that are most appropriate to achieve the targets.