Staying profitable during a
recession is a challenge for any company. Competition continues and operating
costs can rise. However, the company that learns which costs can be controlled
– if not reduced – will prosper, not just in the short term but also after the
recession has ended.
During this recession, rising
energy costs have captured a great deal of attention. And just as in other industries, particularly
manufacturing, pharmaceutical companies seek to cut energy costs.
The good news is that it is
almost always possible to reduce or at least control these costs. However, to
maximize the cost savings opportunities, a carefully constructed energy master
plan tailored to the facility is key. The master plan can accomplish one of two
things. It can outline how to make an existing plant more energy efficient with
no change in throughput. Alternatively, it can map out an energy efficiency
plan that includes increased throughput in the existing lines, as well as in
to Reduce Energy
Like any business undertaking
that requires a return on investment (ROI), energy cost reduction takes focus
The process starts with the
formation of an energy management committee that will plan and manage the process.
The committee must, at a minimum, include key decision-making executives able
to authorize expenditures– the plant manager, and representatives from facility
engineering, operations, maintenance, quality control, safety, and potentially marketing.
Also recommended: a plant energy director, as described in the
2008 publication, “Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities
for the Pharmaceutical Industry” (developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)).
The committee’s first meeting
should focus everyone on the same goals — to prevent false starts. For
instance, the maintenance representative might suggest reducing humidity on the
main floor to protect the equipment from corrosion. But the quality control
representative should point out that less humidity would adversely affect product
In other words, because
manufacturing plant systems interconnect, an energy-saving change at one end of
the line may increase energy needs at the other end or create some other
undesirable outcome. The committee needs to remain alert to the effect(s) which
energy-related decisions cause in one or another interconnected system.
That said, the energy
committee’s job is to create a plan that will enable more efficient operation
of existing and expanded lines with no adverse affects on the rest of the
an Energy Master Plan
As its first step, the
committee should conduct (or commission an energy consultant to carry out) an
assessment of energy use in the plant. This typically includes analyzing utility
bills, evaluating existing energy-related costs, reviewing contracts with local
energy providers and getting all the data into one summary document. The
assessment’s goal is to find out whether the charges are in line with similar
processes in other energy markets.
Next comes an evaluation of how
much energy individual components of plant equipment use, along with an
estimate of how maintenance may affect those costs. In many cases, this data does not exist so
measurement may be required to verify calculations.
Interviews with the plant’s
engineer(s), operations manager, and others will follow. This is useful to gain
understanding of each person’s goals, problems and suggestions for
improvement. These will be reviewed and
may ultimately be woven into the final master plan, provided they support the
sustainability goals of the organization.
Research in hand, the energy
assessment is produced and is a snapshot of the plant’s current energy use. This assessment is then used as a discussion
document with senior management to explain the state of their business from an
energy standpoint. Options on how to
proceed forward and what additional constraints may need to be included are
garnered from senior management. Opportunities
to save energy are reviewed and the energy master plan tailored to the plant
begins to take shape.
An energy-saving master plan
will look first to a facility’s largest energy consumers. With industrial and
manufacturing facilities, this is typically process equipment including boilers,
generators, ovens, large motor drives and various other pieces of
equipment. In some cases, this process
equipment is already optimized or is considered proprietary and, as such, is not
included in the scope of the master plan.
In these cases, the facility and balance of plant functions are the
focus. These consumers include large
heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, centralized
compressor and steam generation systems, and lighting systems.
Pharmaceutical plants, which
often include laboratory and office space, offer a number of additional energy
savings opportunities. Here’s a sampling of the possibilities as outlined in
the publication by the aforementioned Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:
HVAC monitoring and control systems can enable
plant management to monitor and optimize HVAC system energy use. The monitoring
feature can highlight inefficiencies in the system as soon as they develop. The
EPA estimates that HVAC control systems pay for themselves in utility savings in
1.3 years. (Page 24)
Leaky ducts in industrial facilities waste
enormous amounts of air conditioning and heating energy. Sealing them could cut
HVAC costs by 30 percent (Page 24)
Common sense remains one of the most powerful
energy saving tools available. Simply turning the lights off after hours, along
with turning the temperature controls up during the summer to save
air-conditioning energy and down during the winter to save heating energy will
reduce costs. (Page 24)
Adjustable speed drives can improve the energy
performance of variable volume air handlers, recirculation fans, chiller pumps
and water system pumps. (Page 25)
Heat recovery systems can reuse the hot or cool
energy present in HVAC-exhausted air. (Page 25)
Moving from conventional fume hoods to low-flow
equipment with variable flow exhaust systems in R&D laboratories. (Page 28)
Additional techniques include
discharge air temperature management, reflective white roofs, additional
insulation, room air-change rates reset to minimum allowable, more frequent
maintenance of energy-using equipment, and many more.
It is important to remember
that some solutions will work fine in one manufacturing plant, but not so well
in others. The job of the energy-management committee is to develop, or have
developed, an energy assessment and energy-saving master plan which tailors a
set of techniques to the plant’s unique production and product quality needs.
This not only ensures that the plant cuts costs now, but it will also have a
plan for continually improving its energy efficiency for the future.
Carter, LEED AP BD+C, is the Energy Consulting Business Leader and a Senior
Associate at SSOE Group (www.ssoe.com/services/sustainable-renewable-solutions)
an international engineering, procurement, and construction management firm.
With 25 years of experience, Jerry’s expertise includes developing energy
efficiency strategies and implementing renewable energy technologies. He can be
reached in SSOE’s Toledo
office at 419-255-3830 or jerry.carter@SSOE.com.