Over the last few months the requirement to reduce our energy consumption at work has increased in the build up to the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme that launches on April 1st. Whilst I am trying to co-ordinate all the efforts of the group, I am also very aware that as the largest site in the group, I need to try to ensure that we are also making a concerted effort to improve efficiency.
For a bit of background, we are a site that operates 24/7, with two plants running most of the time, depending on customer demand – both do a slightly different job with, in the main, different customers, and are completely different in their mode of operation. One of these plants and associated peripherals and warehousing space etc is responsible for about 70% of the electricity consumption on site.
Whilst we have started to tackle the lights (more about this in a later post), I think we also need to start looking at the processing equipment itself. We have had a couple of surveys conducted on site, including one by the Carbon Trust, and both have mentioned the operating pressure of the two compressors that we have. (We actually have three, but the third is kept as a spare.) This is where the resistance has started. We have a maintenance team of four, and, unfortunately they have not bought in to the idea of using the CRCEE as a way of making any changes that they would like, and I think this is because they are too comfortable and don’t like the idea of change – I may be doing them a disservice, but I have yet to see any real evidence.
OK, now for a bit more background whilst I explain the issues at hand – sorry if you don’t find compressors overly exciting, feel free to skip to the conclusion. The compressors are of different types and are both operating all the time (although not on load). One is a variable speed drive (VSD) compressor which changes its power consumption to match the load, the other is either on or off load. The VSD compressor has apparently been specified to run both plants if necessary and the pipework is in place to allow us to do that. This compressor also has a fairly large receiver tank to store the compressed air and smooth out the load. The compressor kicks in when the pressure in the tank is below 7.5 bar and turns off at 8.5bar (this will become relevant as my story progresses).
So, first question, is the compressor operating in the most efficient way?
Mainenance – it was the most efficient compressor we could get at the time – the suppliers said so.
Me – but, is it running in the most efficient way? Is it set at the right pressure?
Maintenance – it has always been at that pressure since it was installed. It is a variable speed drive compressor and the most efficient available at the time.
Me (there is a pattern here) – but can we change the settings so it is operating more efficiently?
Maintenance – it turns off when it hits 9bar and only comes on when it is at 6bar (see, I told you it was relevant).
Herein lies my perennial problem – not only do I not get the answers to the question I asked, but when I do get an answer there is no guarantee that it is the correct answer. So, my question is, how much time do I spend trying to convince the maintenance team that this is a really good thing, that they don’t have a choice in the long run, that running production equipment inefficiently really is a waste of money and resources, and that they might actually enjoy having some projects out of the ordinary to work on instead of the routine stuff. The alternative is to go ahead and arrange for some of these things to happen and get them annoyed with me – something I am not afraid to do, but it is hardly conducive to future co-operation, although it would mean we do save energy sooner rather than later.
With regards to the compressor – I have found a solution which I shall tell you about in my next post.
Disclaimer – I am not claiming that all maintenance departments are this obstructive, we have other maintenance personnel within the Company that are leading the way, but I bet there is someone like this in most companies. Have you encountered similar problems, how did you deal with them?