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Business: Industrial

CIPEC Annual Report 2010

CIPEC Leadership Awards for Monitoring and Tracking

Redpath Sugar Ltd.

Benchmarking energy use

Redpath Sugar Ltd. uses energy benchmarking to stay lean and green. Redpath’s $15-million annual natural gas bill motivated staff and management to produce a sophisticated monitoring and tracking system that targets energy efficiency.

Redpath Sugar Ltd.
Fast facts

(Toronto, Ontario)

Winning edge: Benchmarking energy use

  • Canada’s largest sugar manufacturing site.
  • Refines 2,000 tonnes of sugar a day.
  • Benchmarking energy use has saved $1 million per year in natural gas.
  • Produces its own electricity with a steam-powered generator.
  • The most energy-efficient cane sugar refinery in North America.

“The energy benchmarking system includes regression analysis, as well as meters for the plant and for key individual processes. We also review energy targets every day,” says George Carter, the Process Manager.

The Toronto plant tracks annual energy consumed divided by the total sugar melted. “This approach has a bias toward production because as production rates increase, the energy intensity reduces, and if production falls, then energy intensity climbs,” Carter says.

Redpath added regression analysis into its benchmarking. The effect on the energy efficiency is analyzed against process variables. The key is to examine the processes for inefficiencies. Regression analysis can also test new ways of operating to find efficiency benefits.

“Basically, we can see how we performed daily and even hourly, and then learn from our good days and bad days,” Carter says. “You can use this information to answer basic but important questions like 'Is this pump working effectively?', 'Are we returning the correct amount of condensate to the boilers'.” The system gives a minute-by-minute picture of energy consumption compared with how much sugar is being processed. This real-time benchmarking provides objective, reliable information on energy use and the benefits of continuous improvements.

“We don’t accept the idea of using energy once. If we cannot eliminate the need to use the energy, then we want to use it again and again,” Carter says. Redpath has been able to fine tune and upgrade equipment to recycle energy. For example, when a storage tank overflowed, releasing hot water into the sewer, the tank control system was modified so that overflow is diverted to another part of the process, capturing the lost energy in the hot water.

“We are fortunate because even though our refinery operates in some ways like an oil refinery, sugar liquors and syrups are not dangerous, and we can adjust and experiment with equipment without being forced to first use complex simulation models,” Carter says. “Being part of Domino Brands, which is a much larger organization, is also allowing us to share our energy saving techniques and ideas with other refineries, and learn from good practices elsewhere in the group.”

Carter estimates that Redpath has invested $100,000 in metering and tracking. “This is a small amount compared to the $1 million per year we are saving in natural gas. The control systems developed by our own engineers are really at the heart of our system,” he says. Redpath tracks water and steam consumption, heat loss into Lake Ontario and condensate. A condensate flash heat-recovery system, process upgrades, changes in operating practices and insulation projects reduced natural gas consumption by 67,000 gigajoules a year.

Metering and energy targets allow staff to start and stop equipment more efficiently, having learned that there are right and wrong ways to shutdown and start up the plant.

Carter and Narayanan Seshadri, Redpath’s energy manager, attended the CIPEC Energy 2009 conference.

“It was a worthwhile conference. The networking was very positive, and now we are keen to benchmark ourselves against others and see where we stand,” Carter says. “It was also good to be able to focus exclusively on energy efficiency for two days. We learned a lot about new technologies; we are excited to bring this knowledge to the refinery in order to keep Redpath at the forefront of energy efficiency.”

Carter’s focus on energy efficiency extends beyond monitoring and tracking to studying energy integration with the help of CIPEC and Enbridge Gas and exploring generating power from biogas.

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Alcoa Canada Primary Metals

Monitoring and Tracking furnace energy consumption

Alcoa, a global aluminum giant with significant operations in Quebec, lives by the old adage that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Staff monitors and tracks the energy consumption of Alcoa’s 34 industrial furnaces at its four facilities and reports monthly to regional management and a regional energy committee. High or unusual patterns of energy use are investigated, and corrective action is taken.

Alcoa Canada primary metals
Fast facts

(Four locations in Quebec)

Winning edge: Monitoring and tracking furnace energy consumption

  • Alcoa has an annual production capacity of over 1 million tonnes of ingots, castings, billets and aluminum rods.
  • Monitoring and optimizing the performance of 34 furnaces is saving Alcoa about $2 million a year in fuel (gas and oil).
  • A furnace best-practices system is being rolled out across Alcoa locations.

The resulting annual energy savings are around 27 percent – worth about $2 million in natural gas costs in 2009. These savings are also helping Alcoa, a CIPEC Leader in the aluminum sector, cut around 15,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

“We started certifying best practices for furnace performance in the fall of 2008. Every furnace is scored on a scale of zero to three; scores below 2.0 are unacceptable,” says Francis Caron, Alcoa Canada’s Project Manager from the research and development group. Caron is based in the Deschambault smelter near Québec City, but his responsibilities for supporting deployment of best practices in furnace management have him on the road in Quebec and at Alcoa smelters across North America.

The furnace best-practices program uses measurable criteria like rates of natural gas use and pressure levels in the combustion chamber. To be certified at the best-practice level, a plant must earn a score of 2.5. To put this score in perspective, Caron says that moving from a score of 1.7 to 2.5 would mean a drop in natural gas consumption of about 35 percent.

“In some cases, we’ve seen natural gas savings of 60 percent. This program is getting a lot of attention and spreading across our global operations. People understand that it represents real savings,” Caron says.

After initial assessment and scoring, each plant conducts a two-day kaizen session focused on continuous improvement. Kaizen is a Japanese management philosophy. Caron kicks off the two-day session with a two-hour training class. The kaizen team then produces action items for the group to work on over the next two days. At the end of the two days, the plant presents an action plan to bring furnaces in line with best practices.

“Once the action plan is ready, they get 90 days to close the gap and apply for a final assessment,” Caron says. Within 45 days of the application, an assessment team rescores the plant.

Once a plant has earned a score of 2.0 or higher, it becomes part of a follow-up system. Operators check at least one furnace per day to verify whether it is operating within control limits. If the furnace is outside control limits, corrective action is taken. Monthly performance reports are generated to identify trends and problem areas.

By the end of 2010, the best practice team and the regional energy committee are planning to roll out an automated information system. It will allow managers to access daily performance data for every furnace. There will also be automatic assessment features to alert managers if a furnace is operating outside control limits.

Caron is part of a corporate culture that values energy efficiency from the shop floor to the executive suite. And the Deschambault smelter’s energy efficiency record makes it an international benchmark in its own right. Avant-garde management techniques, where input and responsibility are shared equally, have placed it among the top 100 employers in Canada according to Maclean’s magazine. The smelter was the first aluminum producer in Quebec to achieve ISO 9002 certification in 1996. In 1997, it was the first to obtain ISO 14001 certification in Canada.

Award-winning approaches to energy efficiency have seen Alcoa included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and named one of the most sustainable companies in the world at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Energy 2009 CIPEC Leadership Award is the latest in an impressive list of achievements for Alcoa.

“The Energy 2009 conference and awards ceremony was a good thing for us to participate in. We made connections with people from the CanmetENERGY lab in Ottawa, and are looking at collaborating with them,” Caron says. He is exploring the possibility of leveraging Canmet expertise to use carbon residue to produce energy and cut down on Alcoa’s use of landfills. Alcoa’s future as an industrial energy innovator looks secure.

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