I opened Monday’s Sustainableplant.com email and found a thought provoking article: Energy Efficiency: The Role of Theory in the Real World by Bill Holmes, P.E. As you might guess, there is much more to the story than just energy theory. If you are struggling to realize energy savings in your processes, you will probably find the article interesting.
The concepts he discusses are around energy savings in buildings, but much of what he describes fits well with process facilities also. One particular quotation from the article was key for me, “I think what jumps out at me as the two central issues that I have been dealing with for more than 35 years, are the gap between the theory, those in academia and design offices and those in the real world working with the energy systems on a daily basis, and second, the lack of monitored data and feedback to verify the system operation on a continuing basis.”
In designing process facilities, a tremendous amount of effort and capital is spent on control, but frequently key measurements important to long term energy monitoring and other key operating parameters are often not available.
From an automation perspective, much of the power of a control system is often left on the table simply due to a lack of investment in key instrumentation. The ability to monitor, calculate and report information is available in most systems today, providing the tools to build the necessary comparisons between theory and reality. But these features are seriously underutilized because the critical sensors were never installed. As another quote from article highlights, “You cannot assume that the systems were designed for maximum energy efficiency, or if they were, know that the design had not been seriously compromised trying to stay within the construction budget.” By investing in the necessary sensors through a larger construction budget to get the data and in the time to use the tools provided to compare theory to reality, process facilities can probably realize many of the same results as Bill Holmes has in his businesses.
Just a quick plug about sustainableplant.com. If your key activities center around energy or other sustainability issues and you’re not already a subscriber, you might want to get to know this site. Many of today’s issues on sustainability are covered on a daily basis with very good guest writers.