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Reducing Utilities Consumption Cost in a Food Processing Plant

Identifying opportunities to reduce costs by implementing a series of initiatives to meet the company targets while delivering an ROI within 2 years

Target set to reduce utility costs by 10%

A large multinational food processing company that has three manufacturing factories in the UK, which includes one of the largest food factories in Europe chose to set a target to reduce utilities consumption costs at that site by 10%. At the time, overall the manufacturing site was spending £12.5m a year on utilities, which equated to an average utility cost of £33.17 per tonne of manufactured product.

On-site assessment identifies six key areas that need to be addressed

Malone Group was engaged by the company to review all utilities services on-site and identify energy saving projects that could be implemented over a period of time to achieve the cost savings to meet the target.

After conducting an extensive on-site assessment, the team identified a range of initiatives to reduce energy consumption and utility costs. These broadly fell into six key areas for the business to address.

  1. Reduce/ eliminate utility losses

There were several areas with potential to reduce utility losses. At the most basic level, this involved upgrading the insulation of a network of hot service pipework. Having observed the steam being regularly vented to the atmosphere, an alternative solution was identified by improving temperature measurement and using automatic valve controls to optimise the heating and venting of rotary sterilisers. The team also identified opportunities to reduce leaks on the compressed air system by installing flow and pressure measurement systems in real time to measure and locate/ repair leaks on a weekly basis.

  1. Increase utility generation efficiencies

A series of efficiencies were identified that could reduce the number of boilers in duty and standby mode at any one time. There was also an opportunity to re-programme the steam boiler loading and control to increase gas burner efficiency. Introducing automation of air compressors on load duty control to match field demands would eliminate off load running and rationalise the number of compressors needed. Installation of air receivers would also eliminate the pressure fluctuations to increase compressor loading efficiency.

  1. Heat recovery systems

The team proposed the recovery of Hot Stream water and steam condensate for use as a primary heat source for the production process and to preheat hot water, reducing steam demands and consequently gas usage. In addition, the separation of culinary steam generation would allow condensate recovery to the boiler feed tank. Further opportunities were identified in reducing the water temperature of returned water to the cooling tower, which would reduce the electrical load.

  1. Improve production utility control and efficiencies

The installation of BEMS/SCADA systems linked to field utility meters, sensors and control valves would optimise utility use on production start-up and during running conditions. This would also facilitate the monitoring of utility use to determine maximum efficiency and provide ongoing control for sustainability and continuous improvements.

  1. Improve production scheduling and synchronisation

By integrating the utility BEMS management into production scheduling and synchronising it, the manufacturing facility would reduce peak demands and non-production time utility use.

  1. Reduce heating and lighting costs

The team proposed the installation of intelligent lighting systems such as PIR sensor lights, specification of target light levels and the integration of BEMS to control the heating and lighting.

The proposed plans estimated to exceed the 10% cost reduction target

The package of measures identified for the site was estimated to deliver a £1.8m reduction in utility costs i.e. approximately 14.4% reduction in costs. The team assessed the costs of the implementation of these measures and in each case the initiative delivered a return on investment within 2 years.