Two years ago, the cost of energy consumption was on the tip of everyone’s mind, but few plant or maintenance managers were talking about how or why it was important. They just knew it was. But it was most likely an item on someone else’s budget report.
It’s funny how a little attention and a little technology can change things. In February, I was in Orlando, Florida, attending the ARC World Industry Forum, a gathering of some of the brightest and most experienced individuals in the industrial space. And energy consumption was a topic that kept popping up repeatedly.
Certainly, organizations’ concerns with energy prices have contributed to the spike in energy-consumption interest, but this trend has been gathering momentum for quite some time. “Business drivers don’t change from year to year, but the intensity keeps increasing,” said Andy Chatha, president and founder of ARC Advisory Group in his opening keynote address at the ARC forum.
Increased intensity isn’t exemplified more than by the energy utility rates paid by UOP in Mobile, Alabama, where the facility pays a rate based on its 15-minute peak consumption during a given month. Now there’s a significant incentive to monitor energy use. With 120 products and six intermediate process lines, the facility experiences heavy changeover, creating lots of opportunities for downtime and wasted energy. “What gets measured gets managed,” says Frank Sentelle, mobile site automation leader at UOP.
Sentelle spoke on a panel discussing energy strategies for operational excellence. Erik Bartsch, mine operations technology leader at Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South Mine in the Sudbury, Ontario, area, also spoke on the panel, explaining how wireless technology was allowing asset monitoring both underground and above-ground. The key to leveraging the data is to work through an implementation in stages, he explained. First, install monitors on what you want to measure. Then gather information on energy consumption. Finally, use the data to predict when energy will be consumed.
“We collect a lot of data,” said Bartsch, “but we don’t have time to look at the data. We need systems to become intelligent enough to look at the data and interpret it.”
Scott Boone, electrical engineer at Woodard & Curran, an integrated engineering, science and operations firm in Portland, Maine, explained in a later session how his company was able to help a municipality to overcome low-bid limitations and standardize energy-monitoring components.
“Power monitors do not print or dispense money,” said Boone. “But they do help the bottom line. Power monitoring is the best way to benchmark power consumption.” The monitoring implementation gave the facility’s maintenance manager the ability to stock one set of parts, and the operations manager got power monitoring tools for energy reduction. Plus, the head operator now could tell why a pump failed.