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Business: Industrial

CIPEC Annual Report 2010

CIPEC Leadership Awards for Process and Technology Improvements


Simultaneously increasing production and decreasing energy consumption

Increasing production while lowering energy consumption is at the heart of most economically successful energy efficiency initiatives. Miralis is making more custom kitchen cabinets and doing so with less energy than ever thanks to innovative improvements to process and technology.

Fast facts

(Rimouski, Quebec)

Winning edge: Increasing production and decreasing energy consumption simultaneously

  • Miralis manufactures mid- and high-end custom kitchen cabinets.
  • Reductions in energy consumption represent annual savings of 2300 gigajoules or around $50,000 in electricity costs.
  • An on-demand HVAC control handles the ventilation needs of 125 work stations.
  • The upgrade reduced the system’s energy consumption by 50 percent.
  • Lighting upgrades cut electricity consumption related to lighting by about 45 percent.

“Our dust collection system was the obvious target for an energy reduction project because it’s our biggest energy consumer,” says Donald Brisson, the company’s Director of Operations in Rimouski, about 300 kilometers east of Québec City on the St. Lawrence river’s south shore. A new on-demand control, installed in fall 2008, has saved the company about $50,000 in annual electricity costs related to dust collection. The new system had a capital cost of $200,000.

“Before the upgrades, the dust collection system used 23 percent of the energy we use in production. Afterwards it dropped to 12 percent, despite the fact that our production capacity has increased by about 20 percent,” Brisson says.

Miralis, a CIPEC Leader in the general manufacturing sector, employs 220 full-time staff working at about 125 workstations with various equipment in an 11,600 m2 facility.

The dust collection system uses large air conveyors that suck wood dust away from workstations. Most of Miralis’ workstations do not operate continuously, but conventional dust collection systems operate all the time to stop dust from accumulating. Drills and band saws, for instance, are generally used only about 25 percent of the time during the day, while panel saws and wide belt sanders are used up to 80 percent of the time.

To address these variable ventilation requirements and the related energy demand, Miralis hired SyENERGY Integrated Energy Solutions to study the system and implement a solution. Ecogate technology offered the best solution, because it addresses ventilation needs for individual equipment, while maintaining the required airflow in the ventilation ducts.

The consultants isolated each individual workstation and then considered the workstation network as a whole. The Ecogate automation program was adapted to the workstations’ operating schedules. Ecogate’s central control can reduce ventilation for equipment that operates only 20 to 30 percent of the day, while increasing ventilation speed to sweep the entire collection system regularly. With Ecogate technology, Miralis saved 650,000 kilowatt hours per year of the 1.32 million kilowatt hours consumed by the dust collector motors.

The fan’s motor power consumption is significantly reduced and motors run quieter, cooler and with less mechanical stress. Noise at the fan and inside the factory is significantly reduced. “Employees appreciate the upgrade because the air is cleaner and the facility is quieter,” Brisson says.

The computerized Ecogate System is completely automated thanks to sensors and controllers. When a machine is turned on, the sensor signals the controller to open the right gate and turn on the dust collector. When the machine stops, the gate closes and the dust collector stops. By closing unused outlets, there is higher air-velocity at the machines’ outlets, resulting in better sawdust extraction and cleaner air.

The Ecogate System monitors all of the machines in the Miralis plant and, through a variable speed drive, continually optimizes the amount of power supplied to dust collection. The system is also designed to maintain minimum airflow in the duct system by opening additional gates when necessary to avoid sawdust settling in the duct system.

The technology is relatively new to Canada, with only Miralis and a Manitoba-based company now using it. However, the technology has the potential to reap energy savings in the wood and printing industries, and also in welding operations.

Miralis also invested $45,000 in a complete refit of the lighting system. These lighting upgrades cut electricity consumption related to lighting by about 45 percent.

Brisson plans to build on the success of the lighting and ventilation projects by improving energy efficiency in the paint shop. “In the winter, we have to heat air that is brought in to replace the vented air. We are looking at things like variable drives to reduce air exhaust, heat exchangers and even a solar wall.”

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McCain Foods (Canada)

Recovering waste heat

With more than 17,000 truckloads of potatoes coming into the plant every year, and emerging as tasty french fries, McCain Carberry already knew a lot about running an efficient operation. When it came to energy efficiency, plant managers realized there was an opportunity to recover heat from fryer vapour. They installed a two-stage energy recovery system, and now the plant uses 9 percent less natural gas.

McCain Foods (Canada)
Fast facts

(Carberry, Manitoba)

Winning edge: Recovering waste heat

  • McCain Foods (Canada) processes an average of about 1 million lbs. of potatoes per day in Carberry.
  • Recovering heat from fryer vapour is saving the plant an average of about 9 percent in energy costs.
  • The system cost about $1.8 million and is expected to have a payback of less than three years.
  • The Carberry plant is one of the lower-cost facilities in the McCain Food family.

“There are measurable savings in natural gas, which in turn result in reductions in emissions. The system cost about $1.8 million, and we expect it to pay for itself in energy savings within two or three years,” says Len Bull, the Maintenance Supervisor for utilities at McCain’s Carberry, Manitoba, plant, located 170 km west of Winnipeg. He also acts as the plant’s energy champion, a position found in every McCain plant.

The system came online in February 2008. The installation – coordinated closely between production, maintenance and engineering – was completed over several months.

Before the new system was installed, fryer exhaust vapour at 125°C was going up the stack instead of energizing the bottom line. Now, the plant uses this waste heat to heat water in pre-heaters. This is allowing the plant to be among the lower-cost facilities in the McCain Food family, which is already a Canada-wide corporate leader in energy efficiency. The plant is a CIPEC Leader in the food and beverage sector.

“All the staff understand that energy efficiency is about being competitive. Not only do we have to compete against other companies, but we also have to bid on work within the McCain family,” Bull says.

The new process relies on an energy-recovery system which uses computerized controls.

The system also records energy data every day so staff can benchmark performance and investigate when numbers are out of line or determine what’s behind unusually strong performance. “We set a record in March. The energy recovery system is helping us figure out how to perform that strongly again,” Bull says.

The energy recovery system is also used in other McCain plants. “We are using a third- or fourth-generation version. It definitely helps being part of a larger company like McCain, where we can benefit from other plants’ experience,” Bull says.

Bull is planning to use some of the spare capacity of the energy recovery system to run equipment in other areas.

This impulse to push for more energy savings is part of the McCain culture. “In the McCain world, if an energy efficiency project has a payback of under two years, the attitude usually is ‘get busy and do it.’ The company is also open to good ideas with longer paybacks,” Bull says.

When it comes to ideas, CIPEC is an obvious source for Bull. “The Energy 2009 conference was a great opportunity for networking and picking up new ideas. We’re looking at adapting some of the ideas we picked up from cement industry contacts,” Bull says.

He also notes that McCain’s commitment to continuous improvement through the Japanese management philosophy of kaizen means the heat recovery project is just one step in a longer journey. “We will continue our energy efficiency efforts. In March, we started using biogas generated from potato waste in the Carberry plant boilers, which will help to further reduce energy requirements. We are also upgrading HVAC systems.”

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