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Counting The Cost Of Energy-related Failures In The Process Industry

The cost of an interruption to operations as a result of an energy-related failure can be huge for any organisation to bare, especially as the number of power failures is predicted to increase . For the process sector, in particular, the need to protect against such outages is even more significant as Powerstar’s CEO Dr. Alex Mardapittas explains.

By Dr. Alex Mardapittas, CEO of Powerstar

By Dr. Alex Mardapittas, CEO of Powerstar

Companies often have good procedures in place for planned outages or scheduled maintenance, but for businesses reliant on a constant supply of electricity – with most process industries operating 24/7 – dealing with unexpected power outages poses a large risk and avoiding them is a crucial part of ensuring operational efficiency.

Given that any power interruption or outage in industry, be that food processing, chemical processing, pulp or paper, can leave any organisation reeling from the cost of unexpected equipment failures and damage, costly interruptions in process flow, product losses and even downtime due to personnel being diverted for maintenance duties, the ability to respond or even negate any unplanned disruptions to operations can be extremely valuable.

This is particularly pertinent when you consider that downtime cost UK manufacturers £180bn a year in 2017 . Whilst, if the West Midlands alone lost power for four hours on any working day, the cost to manufacturers would be around £25 million .

Energy intensive industries

Organisations within the process industry are facing ever more complex challenges from escalating energy costs to tighter budgets and the management of critical equipment throughout growing demands for sustainability, presenting the sector with issues that demand timely and effective solutions. 

Rising energy costs, compounded by volatile energy markets, are having a particular impact. With prices predicted to rise by as much as 50% by 2020 , this is a major concern for the high consumption process industry as it can seriously affect their ability to stay competitive.

According to Gazprom Energy , companies that process chemicals, food, non-metallic minerals, rubber, plastics and paper are amongst the top ten consumers of energy in the UK and as high energy users, such companies are likely to feel the largest impact from price rises.

Advancing with Industry 4.0 

Industry 4.0, with its focus on automation, connectivity, real-time data and machine learning provides the process industry with a genuine opportunity to tackle many of the challenges it currently faces with demanding supply chains.

However, its evolution has also increased the need for energy reduction and improved energy resilience resulting in many organisations modernising and expanding plant equipment and the energy assets that power them.

Increased reliance on electrical equipment is carving the way for proven smart energy solutions, such as voltage optimisation, energy storage and smart distribution transformers, to deliver substantial energy savings, enhanced security of supply and lower carbon emissions as factories transform. 

The value of voltage optimisation 

An established technology, like voltage optimisation (VO), presents considerable advantages, especially as part of a wider smart energy strategy. Power from the National Grid is generally supplied at a higher than necessary voltage in UK, providing an opportunity for VO technology to deliver significant energy savings by optimising the incoming supply.

Protecting against energy failure

By reducing the voltage to a level that is optimal for on-site equipment whilst regulating, cleaning and conditioning incoming power, significant benefits will be experienced both to electrical consumption and costs.

Additionally, by resolving overvoltage, it reduces the excessive strain that shortens the lifespan of electrical equipment and thus prevents the need to purchase costly replacements due to premature failure.

Some VO solutions dynamically reduce and stabilise inbound fluctuating voltage profiles to provide a constant and consistent output at the correct voltage maximising the benefit and lowering consumption, costs and carbon emissions for unstable voltage profiles, which would otherwise be vulnerable to voltage dips or spikes.

Whilst voltage optimisation offers its own distinctive benefits, when integrated alongside multiple smart energy solutions, such as energy storage and distribution transformers, a comprehensive energy strategy for large-scale manufacturing and processing companies can be achieved and value can be maximised.

Added value of energy storage 

An effective way to improve power resilience is through the utilisation of leading-edge energy storage technologies that provide full Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) capabilities. 

This technology has been specifically designed to ensure all critical equipment remains uninterrupted should an energy-related failure occur. This is achieved by utilising locally stored energy to support the load within milliseconds so that even sensitive equipment remains unaffected. As a bespoke solution, this technology can be manufactured to cover a full site opposed to only safeguarding specific systems, such as IT which is the case for traditional UPS systems, servers giving peace of mind across an entire facility and eliminating the risk of costly power failures.  

Furthermore, energy storage can be integrated with new or existing generation technologies, including solar (PV), wind, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants or biomass solutions, enabling generation to be maximised and utilised more effectively.

Energy related failures

Transformer transformation

Many process companies operate transformers on-site and understand their importance within the high voltage (HV) infrastructure. Often, transformers are energised 24/7, even when they are not being used to carry an electrical load, to ensure the sites electricity supply is safe for the operation of electrical equipment. Therefore, if they are not monitored or replaced as they age, a site can experience significant losses which adds up to inflated electricity bills.

However, such problems can be easily overcome by a simple upgrade to a new transformer with a highly efficient core material, such as an amorphous alloy, and the condition of the equipment can be monitored remotely if it is manufactured with smart capabilities. 

Smart distribution transformers provide essential data for processing environments, presenting valuable Grid information, conditional performance and energy efficiency reports.

Capable of displaying detailed information, they can generate reports on amps, core temperature, harmonic distortion, oil analysis, phase to phase metrics voltage, power factor, real power, system kVA, system kWh to give useful insights into asset performance and operation whilst detecting opportunities for further optimisation.

Such platforms give processing companies a greater understanding of their energy usage, enabling them to optimise and discover where additional savings can be made. Importantly, they also monitor system health, identifying issues that could lead to costly downtime so that they can be addressed before failure occurs.

Today’s smart energy solutions provide a wide range of benefits. Their ability to reduce consumption helps processing companies to cut energy costs; they mitigate the potential for downtime and prolong the lifespan of expensive equipment whilst enabling organisations to make significant reductions to their carbon emissions. As a result, companies can be more competitive, secure and better placed to deal with environmental regulations.     

For more information on how to achieve your short and long-term energy goals through a bespoke and comprehensive smart energy strategy, please visit: www.powerstar.com

Process Industry Informer

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