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Focusing on Energy Pays Off

The financial and environmental benefits for the aggregate industry of focusing on energy.


February 12, 2013
By David Arkell

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Energy management has traditionally focused on procurement and the energy inputs an organization needs.

Energy management has traditionally focused on procurement and the energy inputs an organization needs. While this is an important piece of the puzzle, there are many other areas of energy management that companies should integrate into their daily operations. Increasingly, cement and aggregate companies are understanding the value of deploying full energy management in their highly energy intensive and environmentally sensitive businesses.

Martin Vroegh, corporate environment manager of St Marys Cement Inc. (Canada) – Votorantim Cement North America, says, “The manufacture of cement requires large amounts of energy amounting to nearly 50% of manufacturing costs. Therefore, managing energy and its direct and indirect emissions is critical to triple bottom line sustainability. The benefits are not just economic but demonstrative of environmental and social responsibility.”

The first step is to truly understand the current status regarding energy usage, costs and environmental impacts. It is essential that this information and thought process is not only supported by senior management but also understood and integrated throughout the company.

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The next step is to choose an energy champion who can facilitate a multidisciplinary team consisting of the plant manager, production, maintenance/engineering, accounting and environmental personnel who are passionate and committed to finding solutions for the company. This group will work together to develop an energy roadmap to move the organization forward. Just as one would have an organizational strategy for production needs for each project planned for the year, one should have a strategy for managing the energy to meet those production requirements. It is imperative that each department (accounting, production, maintenance, etc.) understand how, when, where and why energy is used and what costs are associated with it. If this is understood, steps can be taken to mitigate costs and improve efficiencies throughout the facility. By having a team in place, responsibility for energy can be shared and in smaller pieces, and seem far more manageable than if one person is looking at a long list of to-do’s on their own. 

Steve Bisson, general manager for Walker Aggregates Inc., looks at his different operations and says, “Quarries are a necessary part of infrastructure and community development; however, we have an obligation and responsibility to operate them in a sustainable manner. In order for us to achieve this, we must first identify how and where we are measuring our impacts and develop key performance indicators. Process improvement can only be achieved with identification.”

Working as a team on a few simple, low-cost items creates momentum and savings, which in turn can be directed towards higher-cost capital projects. Small, low-cost initiatives, addressing the low hanging fruit, or most obvious problems, can deliver savings in the range of 5 to 10% of annual energy costs. By addressing these items, the organization can further engage the workforce, creating awareness and training for energy management that previously was not there.

Once the process is underway to achieving energy improvements, it will be necessary for the organization to continue to track and measure the activity and associated savings that are being attained. Whether it is savings achieved or costs avoided, all should be included in the performance reporting of the new focus on energy management. Carbon emissions can be associated with any reduction in energy use or total energy consumption that is documented, which should also be associated with the progress the organization is making. Financial results are critical, but the environmental outcomes that come with effective energy management can be just as important.

John Pooley, VP of program development with 360 Energy and a leading energy expert in the minerals and cement sector in U.K., comments, “Traditionally in the times of low energy costs and limited carbon constraints energy might not have been particularly high on the agenda. For sure in cement plants the operation of the kiln was managed – but electrical use was taken for granted. In quarries the benefits in better use of mobile plants and optimizing crushing and product flow are not considered except when production targets could not be met. But in Europe the combination of rising energy costs, carbon regulation and the economic downturn has forced companies to look for savings in areas previously overlooked.”

Internationally, there is a shift towards integrated energy management practices, which is particularly important in energy-intense industries, and that shift is beginning to make its way to North America. A management approach as we have outlined here simplifies the tasks for everyone involved in the management of facilities, by working together and using a team approach to running an efficient operation. If you would like to learn how 360 Energy has assisted organizations like yours, contact us at info@360energy.net.