Wes Allen, Power & Energy Industry Manager for Endress+Hauser Ltd, discusses the role energy efficiency has to play in decarbonisation – and what’s next for UK industry.
The UK government’s target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will require extensive changes across industry and in all our personal lives. The changes will happen sooner than people think: within a decade, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned and gas-fired boilers will be replaced by renewable heating systems in all new-build homes. And just like in those domestic situations, companies will have to decarbonise. For industry, reaching net zero will involve the development of a hydrogen economy to service demands for some industrial processes and further expansion of carbon capture and storage in industry to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. While these ambitious plans could take over a decade to realise, in the short term energy efficiency is the only way to start reducing carbon emissions.
In addition to our net-zero obligations, unprecedented rises in energy prices are putting pressure on industry as well as individuals. Wholesale gas prices have more than quadrupled since the start of 2021 and are expected to keep rising. At the time of writing, the government, energy industry and Ofgem are in talks to find a mechanism for protecting suppliers and consumers alike. The mechanism is thought to be similar to the ‘contracts for difference’ subsidy scheme that supports the growth of renewable energy, allowing suppliers to spread out the costs of surges in wholesale energy prices for consumers over a number of years. The details remain to be seen, but what is clear is that the need to improve energy efficiency and ultimately reduce costs and carbon emissions has never been greater.
Understanding your process
The first step towards energy efficiency is energy monitoring. Only by measuring what goes in and what goes out of the boiler – fuel, steam, feed water, condensate, for example – can you calculate KPIs and benchmark performance. The right measurements will give you much greater insight into your fuel-to-steam efficiency, but not every industrial plant is measuring more than the basic fuel economy of their boiler. To be able to access those additional measurements, such as heat and temperature, you first need to instrument the boiler correctly and then manage the data. Endress+Hauser’s Memograph RSG45 data manager is a tool that can be used to calculate those all-important KPIs, presenting the data in a convenient, graphical way. The information can then be shared with other platforms including the cloud-based software program eSight, which provides automatic and continuous monitoring of performance to baseline targets. Setting targets and being able to track them against real-time information is crucial for effective performance reporting.
For a more accurate determination of energy use in a plant, you may need to measure heat in addition to the mass of the steam from the boiler. Heat measurement is a requirement for compliance with various government initiatives and regulations, including the UK Emissions Trading Scheme and the Renewable Heat Incentive, and the combined heat and power quality assurance (CHPQA) programme. Endress+Hauser has been instrumental in helping many businesses to take advantage of such schemes by providing consultancy services as well as metering, data acquisition solutions and software.
What’s eating your profit margin?
Beyond the boiler house, there are other opportunities for metering to improve energy efficiency. If you know the fuel economy of a boiler, using a steam meter on a production line you can determine how much gas you’re using for heat in that line. The current high cost of gas is likely to have a significant impact on your profit margin, so it’s essential to know how much gas you’re using in different areas of the process. The margin can be tracked in eSight to give you greater control over your costs and ultimately save both money and energy.
Reduced energy consumption = increased profit
An Endress+Hauser customer, a UK brewery with a turnover of £38 million, 18% annual profit (£7 million) and an annual energy spend of £1.5 million, managed to reduce its energy consumption by 15% by installing more efficient equipment, equalling £230,000 annual savings. This equates to a profit increase of 3%. The brewery would have had to sell an extra £1.14 million worth of beer per year to obtain the same increase in profit!
Endress+Hauser’s consultancy services go far beyond the obvious. As well as identifying energy-saving opportunities, we offer advice on the latest government thinking and strategies so that our customers are fully aware of the challenges and opportunities to come. We’re constantly on the lookout for opportunities that could result in real carbon and cost savings. We advise our customers on the energy efficiency improvements that can be made now but also the more aspirational long-term projects that would transform the site’s energy efficiency.
Taking a chemical plant in the North East of England as an example, we produced a strategy for energy reduction and decarbonisation that involved an assessment of the energy use at the site and discussed the opportunities to reduce emissions, energy use and costs. These opportunities included energy efficiency measures and heat recovery, improved technology and an extension to the energy management system to achieve ISO 50001 accreditation. We also encouraged the customer to consider a gas-fired CHP solution in the short and medium term to reduce energy costs and make some of the decarbonisation measures (such as heat pumps) viable, and in the long term to consider renewable power generation (solar and wind) and hydrogen generation supported by potential government incentives.
The need to reduce carbon emissions is clear, and reductions ideally need to be achieved in line with UK targets for emissions reductions and the UK strategy. Of course it’s also important to balance carbon emissions reduction with the requirement to control energy and carbon costs and the required capital expenditure. Decarbonisation is generally complex because of the rapidly changing circumstances. This includes uncertain energy and carbon prices, price volatility and the development of new technologies and solutions. It is expected that over the next five years there will be more clarity about solutions appropriate for the UK, including hydrogen, carbon capture, biofuels, biomass and more, and there are significant government incentives planned. For most industrial plants, a staged approach to the reduction of carbon emissions is likely to be the optimum approach and expert advice will be needed to maximise the opportunities.
For more information on how Endress+Hauser can help you with decarbonisation, visit https://cx.endress.com/energy-monitoring-solutions?leadsource=Blogging