Energy Management and Operational Improvements

If at first you don't succeed, take the tax loss.

Kirk Kirkpatrick


The South Texas refinery has deployed their enterprise industrial data infrastructure (EIDI) system with a few nascent results. Refinery equipment is being proactively monitored and the units are running more smoothly, with a reduced number of unscheduled downtimes. Engineers and operation teams are better able to monitor their processes, resulting in less variability. The team now turns its focus to reducing energy costs and improving their analytic abilities. In this chapter, we will investigate how Proclndustries can use their EIDI technology investment to benchmark and reduce unnecessary energy costs. We will also see how Peter Argus and his team strive to make refinery operations more resilient, so that it can survive another disaster like the transformer lighting strike, which triggered refinery outages. This incident ultimately spawned the strategy of EIDI deployment.

Revisiting Energy Consumption

One of the largest costs for a process or manufacturing company is their consumption of utilities: steam, water, and especially power. For example, many manufacturing production companies treat energy costs as fixed costs, with energy (power, steam, or water) consumed and the monthly utility bill paid. With consolidated real-time and historical data, a company can investigate when and why they are not optimally consuming energy, which assets devour the most energy, and which assets ingest the most energy relative to expected consumption. This type of analysis will help Proclndustries avoid paying stiff penalties for overusing energy during peak summer afternoons at the South Texas refinery. The team can also allocate utility costs by process, by unit, by product, and other metrics.

Ron Erickson, Proclndustries' energy and utilities manager, who has been working with the digital transformation team, met with Peter Argus and the refinery's transformation team. Ron saw a new way of reengineering energy management for Proclndustries. "First, we must not look at this as a one-time event, like we've done in previous energy audits, when management only wanted to replace a few faulty pieces of equipment and change the lighting system. I think we need to go deeper, now that we have the data to do so." He surmised the enterprise industrial data infrastructure (EIDI) will enable the following:

  • 1. Establish a baseline level of energy consumption. The EIDI will monitor current energy usage for a month under normal refinery operating conditions.
  • 2. Investigate ways to reduce the refinery's monthly energy bill by making sure assets run optimally (refer to Chapter 6 on Proclndustries' condition-based maintenance initiative) and by reducing controllable process losses that gobble energy.
  • 3. Translate usage to actual energy costs per unit by adding EIDI online calculations.
  • 4. Provide real-time visibility for plant operations teams to identify when energy usage starts to deviate from desired target ranges or historical norms. In those instances, they can take corrective actions or notify others to investigate.
  • 5. Improve refinery resiliency by using the EIDI to notify operations of cascading consequences from calamitous events, such as the lightning strike the previous year.
  • 6. Use the EIDI to continuously monitor and reduce the refinery's energy consumption through intelligent data analysis. As people better learn how to use the EIDI, they will naturally go deeper to find correlations.

Ron said, "Energy affects refinery margins," and shared the following statistics: "For U.S. refineries, energy accounts for the largest share of operating costs at more than 40%. Maintenance is about 20% to 25%, personnel is 10% to 20%, and 15% to 20% for everything else. And because water is used for cooling, it is also an energy component. In addition, unscheduled equipment downtime reduces our annual production by about 5%. An energy- efficient refining program can be achieved with results in the order of a 4% to 6% payback per year. We can also use EIDI to track carbon dioxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions." Ron concluded, "If we accomplish those goals, we can improve profitability and become a better neighbor in the community by meeting our corporate sustainability goals."

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