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How Practical Industrial Sustainability Can Lead to Increased Profits

March 2, 2022

How Practical Industrial Sustainability Can Lead to Increased Profits

When we think of environmental sustainability, increased compliance often comes to mind. For manufacturing, mines, process plants, and other industrial sites, environmental sustainability is very much about controlling various inputs and outputs. A lot of focus is placed upon greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with energy use, especially carbon dioxide (CO2).

For reliability, availability and maintenance (RAM) professionals, improving energy efficiency and reducing associated emissions can be a boon for profitability, production reliability, reduced lifecycle cost of asset ownership, and safety. Drew Troyer is an Asset Management and Reliability Educator. He presented at Mainstream OnAir 2021 on how practical industrial sustainability can lead to increased profits. Here’s a summary of his session.

The Asset Management Economy

Asset management is transitioning from a linear economy to one that is  focused on sustainability – what we call a circular economy. The Reliability and Maintenance professional (R&M) plays an important role in this transformation, by harnessing the opportunities presented to them by focusing on energy and managing fugitive emissions. These are harmful to people, the environment, and to the bottom line. “You can drive sustainable asset management from the plant floor. Some things you can put to work today, to improve the sustainability of your plant and your operation,” says Drew. SUSTAINABLE + PROFITABLE + SAFE = SUCCESS. These are not conflicting goals!

Asset Management in the Linear vs. Circular Economy

In the traditional linear economy that we are most familiar with, asset management follows a linear pattern. That is, the initial design, the use of raw materials to produce the asset, distributing, installing, and operating the asset, along with regular maintenance. At the end of the asset’s useful life, it is disposed of and replaced. Energy and emissions are produced throughout all phases of the asset’s life. A circular economy takes the basic business processes of the linear model, and reconfigures them. All of the original elements from design through to maintenance still exist, but the main focus in a circular economy is to reuse or recycle the components or materials from these assets. “I really think, for us in the R&M field, we have a major opportunity to impact the maintenance and operations components of this new circular economy,” Drew points out.

Reduced Parasitic Energy Losses

Drew believes one big area for opportunity is in the reduction of parasitic energy losses. Controlling the parasitic mechanical and electrical frictional energy losses, reduces the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) which enters the atmosphere. “A good rule of thumb is, for every kilowatt hour of electricity that we use, we actually throw out about 0.7kg of CO₂,” Drew explained. We can alleviate parasitic energy losses by reducing:

  • Mechanical heating (turbulence/churning losses)
  • Vibration
  • Mechanical slippage
  • Electrical heating (I²R losses)
  • Flashover and stray current

Managing these parasitic frictional losses, whether they are electrically or chemically driven makes a huge difference. Pump Belt Slip Study A study was conducted using a strobe light on the belt of a small pulley. This is done by synchronising the strobe light frequency with the small pulley, and recording the rpm. This was repeated for the large pulley, recording the rpm. The table below shows the results:

By taking the small pulley diameter, divided by the large pulley diameter, a theoretical rpm can be arrived at for the large pulley (757). When the large pulley was strobed, the rpm was 701. This translates to a slip of 7.4%. If the maximum allowable slip is set at 2%, this leaves 5.4% excess slip/production loss. This percentage translates to an 88,537 kWh per year loss. Assuming a power cost of US $0.06/kWh, this equates to a dollar amount of $5,312 in lost profit. Furthermore, the carbon impact (wastage) is 63 metric tonnes. (88,537kWh/yr X 0.707kg / 1000).“Sixty-three metric tonnes wastefully emitted. We can take action on that. This is within our grasp,” Drew urged.

The Social Cost of Carbon

The social cost of carbon is a complex issue. But it really is tied to the impact a tonne of carbon has on society in terms of health and welfare, increased frequency and severity of unusual weather events and so forth. Drew believes this presents a huge opportunity to reduce parasitic energy losses. The social cost of carbon has a generally accepted figure of US $51/MT. Using the example of energy losses in the Belt Slip study, this equates to a dollar amount of $3,192.“This is for one pump. Imagine applying this across an entire system. Start thinking about the numbers in terms of money and energy saved, in terms of increased productivity,” said Drew.

Increased Machine Life

Proactively extending the life of the equipment has a positive impact on the circular economy. The exact things which are done to reduce parasitic frictional losses that rob the system of energy, reduce production and increase our energy bill, and unfortunately also contribute a great deal of carbon into the atmosphere - also tend to produce wear and tear on the machines. By proactively controlling these root causes of degradation, Drew believes we can have a dramatic impact on the life of equipment. Reducing vibration by 20%, ensuring proper lubrication, or reducing contamination, for example, can double the life of a machine. “We really do have significant opportunities. This of course has a significant life-cycle impact, and is a major contributor in our pursuit of a more circular economy,” Drew noted.

Putting Sustainability on the Plant Floor

As an R&M professional, you can assist operations by:

  • Reducing parasitic frictional energy losses,
  • Caused by excess vibrations (looseness, misalignment, unbalance)
  • Caused by poor lubrication
  • Address parasitic electrical energy losses caused by electrical heating and stray current.
  • Eliminate emissions that waste energy and harm the environment and people.
  • Adopt a proactive operations and maintenance lifestyle - look for opportunities to improve the health of the equipment, keeping an eye on energy as one of the benefits.

“I believe that our goals to improve productivity, safety and environmental performance at the plant all drive from the same source; that is, reliable assets that are properly operated and cared for with maintenance,” Drew finished.

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