Canadian Plastics

Free program produces significant cost savings

special report: energy savings

July 1, 2009   By Graham Knowles



special report: energy savings

A free program being delivered by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) has the potential to result in significant cost savings for plastic processors. The energy conservation program is made available through funding from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) in order to help the province reduce electricity usage, while also helping businesses save money on their electricity bills. The CPIA program includes mini-assessments, workshops, and webinars.

Mike Bannon, vice president of production, Tempo Plastics, and Rick Hardwick, vice president of quality, Tempo Plastics, were involved in the program first hand by taking part in a mini-assessment and a subsequent workshop. The two individuals were pleasantly surprised at the electricity savings potential that could be realized from implementing a few simple energy-savings measures at the plant.

“We can probably save between eight and 10 per cent a year in electricity costs, as a direct result of this assessment,” Bannon said. This translates into thousands of dollars per year.

THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Consultants from Mississauga, Ont.-based Hatch Energy previewed the energy use and production data of Tempo Plastics’ Barrie, Ont. blown film extrusion facility before conducting an on-site walk-through assessment. The total time spent was less than one day.

“The mini-assessments are designed not necessarily to uncover all of the potential energy-savings opportunities, but rather to highlight key opportunities that the site team can get enthusiastic about, and get involved in implementing right away,” explains Jon Feldman of Hatch Energy.

BIG-TICKET ITEMS

One of the most significant energy-savings opportunities came from the running of the company’s two air compressors. Tempo Plastics had been operating both a 150-horsepower and a 75-horsepower compressor at all times.

“During the mini-assessment, it came to light that we could run only the smaller one on the weekends, instead of running both compressors all of the time, and save around $7,500 per year,” Bannon said. The estimated savings were later verified with a power data logger.

Compressed air leaks are common occurrences at many manufacturing facilities, with a single 1/8″ leak costing upwards of $1,800 a year in wasted electricity. The mini-assessment included the use of an “ultrasonic detector” that revealed many opportunities to reduce energy use by repairing leaks.

“We generally listen for leaks, but the leak detector showed us that there were many leaks that we couldn’t hear,” explained Hardwick, who adds that the company eventually invested in its own detector for $1,000 to guard against future leaks. The estimated savings from preventing leaks are $9,000 a year.

Another recommendation from the mini-assessment was for the site to investigate installing “free cooling” for the chiller circuit when the outside temperature falls below 10C. In Tempo Plastics’ case, this could be for as many as six months of the year. Estimated savings are $14,000 a year.

ABOVE AND BEYOND

In addition to the significant “big-ticket” savings noted, the consultants also pointed out a few other measures that could contribute to increased savings. These included reducing the compressed air pressure by 10psi, using outside air as intake for the compressors in the cooler weather, and shifting loads to reduce peak demand costs.

Lighting was another area that could produce additional savings, as was reducing the number of chilling systems in use on the weekends to support the printers.

MORE TO COME

The recommended on-site energy-conservation savings discovered through the mini-assessment were complemented by the identification of two government programs as potential sources of incentive funding for Tempo Plastics. The consultants suggested that the company investigate funding from the Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) retrofit program for small and medium-sized industrial facilities for any capital item expenditures (such as bringing outside air to the compressors), as well as the Electricity Retrofit Incentive Program (ERIP) for funding for lighting upgrades and motor efficiency upgrades. This latter program is delivered through local distribution companies in partnership with the OPA.

TEAM EFFORT

Perhaps one of the most effective outcomes of the mini-assessment was the increased awareness and focus on energy conservation — on the part of everyone at the facility. The assessment included an evaluation of the team’s work practices around energy management, and the outcomes promise to deliver more energy conservation measures for Tempo Plastics in the future.

“One of the things that started changing was our staff,” explained Bannon. “The program made them more aware of energy savings. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that someone hasn’t brought something to my attention. That’s probably a bigger gain than all of the others. It’s not just a couple of people anymore who are looking out for these opportunities — it’s everybody.”

Graham Knowles is a consultant with the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, and is running the Ontario Power Authority CPIA program. He may be reached at 905-678-7405, ext. 232 or at gknowles@cpia.ca.


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