Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Energy Sustenance - An Opportunity to Explore

Resource conversation has become an important factor in manufacturing units today. This is mainly because of the growing size of various industries and inflation of the raw material. The article on Manufacturing Resource Productivity got me thinking on how useful conserving resources and making the optimum utilization out of the same can save costs and the environment too. The industrial sector used 1/3 of the total energy produced in the U.S. To optimize the use of energy, we need to understand the meaning of energy efficiency. This is a measure of effectiveness of the energy source to convert it to usable work. Food and Beverages is an industry that seems to remain evergreen in the years to come, mainly due to the increase in demand due to the increase in world population.

The Food and Beverages industry ranks among the first six in energy consumption at 258 TBtu, with natural gas being the primary consumption, followed by coal. About 32% of this primary energy is lost during offsite energy generation and transport. To mitigate this, cogeneration of energy is done. Food and Beverage industry ranks fourth in steam usage and fourth in fire systems. The main use of energy in these industries is to provide heating and cooling, to power motor driven systems . However, 35% of this energy is lost even before it is used in processes.

A deeper understanding of where all the energy is being utilized can give a better picture of where it can be preserved. The wet corn mills use up large amounts of energy due to the steeping, steep water evaporation and germ drying process. This is the best area where energy can be conserved. The best practice would be to use direct-fired drying through impulse, infrared and press drying. Another step to take in this regard is to recover the wasted heat. These steps can enable recovery of wastes by 10-30% and save the industry energy by 80TBtu/year. Fired systems are used mainly for meat, cheese, bread cake, fats and oil. The energy loss on these amounts to 135 TBtu/annum. However, if used optimally, it can save up to 30 TBtu annually.

Significant energy saving techniques include optimizing the use of exisiting  equipment, investing in process innovation and equipment upgrade, investing in low carbon energy supply options. Solar-thermal systems could be used for heating. This industry does have sufficient food waste which can in turn be used to produce energy.  Supply Chain collaboration is an emerging strategy used by industries by joining their supply chain partners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian Industry Group and Sustainability Victoria joined their supply chain businesses for carbon reduction opportunities for a can of peaches and a tub of ice cream. Thus, a supply chain based approach can be undertaken to combat carbon-emission. However, will all the industries undertake this initiative? Will the industries be willing to invest largely for better resource utilization?

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