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Energy saving tips from the trade.

If you are blessed with abundant, renewable sources, you have a competitive advantage these days. If you are relying on purchased energy, you have some problems--in some cases problems big enough to put you out of business. Process projects for which I have been commissioned in the last few years have often had a strong energy component. Here are a few of the general things I have noticed, learned or suggested that perhaps can help you in the current situation:

Natural gas wells: I know of two mills that have completed and one that is studying drilling their own natural gas well. If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in an area with such resources, check it out. You may just solve your energy problem overnight.

Thermal springs: The above will also work in areas with thermal springs.

Extract wastewater heat: Wastewater is loaded with energy. Closing up your mill or finding a way to extract this heat before discharge is beneficial at today's prices.

Replace constant speed pumps: AC variable speed pumps replacing constant speed pumps with throttling valves make good economic sense in many applications. Same is true for induced and forced draft boiler fans.

Petroleum coke firing of lime kilns is gaining in popularity. This can produce huge savings over natural gas firing with relatively small environmental permit changes.

Replacing PRVs (pressure reducing valves) with extraction steam turbines makes sense, especially if the turbines are used to run vacuum pump trains or other direct mechanical uses which are much simpler to operate than electrical generation applications.

Hedge against higher energy costs: Buy rolling futures contracts for half your outside energy purchases; buy the other half on spot markets. You won't save as much if prices go down, but you will not pay as much if they go up. Using futures can smooth out the swings.

Eliminate energy circles: Look for large streams being pumped around in circles. You will be amazed how many of these there are in older mills.

Use new air compressors: New, smaller air compressors with thermal heat capture and tied to new, relatively local header systems (with no leaks) can be huge energy savers, and can be installed piecemeal starting in the parts of the mill with the highest levels of header leaks.

Eliminate overtaxed pipe lines: As production has crept up, some pipe lines have been pushed to deliver much higher volumes than those for which they were designed, placing their friction losses in undesirable ranges and forcing pump curves out of their sweet spots. Parallel lines and retrimmed impellers may pay for themselves quickly in certain applications.

Audit auxiliary suppliers: Examine auxiliary systems on your mill site owned and operated by others. They may be getting a free or discounted ride on energy if they were developed in times of relatively inexpensive energy.

Raw material swap: In the Cali Valley of Colombia, paper mills buy coal and trade it to the sugar mills on a BTU swap basis for the spent sugar cane. This is because the sugar cane mills' boilers were built to burn the cane as fuel. The paper mills need the cane to make paper, and the cane mills just want their energy requirements met. I am not sure this concept can be used in any other application, but it is a unique idea for which their may be some possible adaptations in other parts of the world.

Get accurate information. Finally, make sure all gauges, meters, and monitoring devices related to your energy consumption are working and are accurate. You are flying blind if this important equipment is not giving you useful data.

If you have other ideas on how to save energy, please let us know and we will publish them. Send me an email at this address:

For more information, access the following article from the 2005 TAPPI Papermakers Conference: "Developing a Programmatic Approach to Energy Conservation," by D. Parker. Download the article at by entering the following Product Code in the search field: 05PPM36. Member Price: $10.00 Non-Member Price: $15.00. Or call TAPPI Member Connection at 1 800 332-8686 (US); 1 800 446-9431 (Canada); +1 770 446 1400 (International).


Thompson is CEO of Talo Analytic International, Inc. (, a member of the Solutions! editorial board and executive editor of PaperMoney (, which is published by TAPPI and TAII. Contact him at


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Title Annotation:CASE STUDY
Author:Thompson, Jim (American legislator)
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:Summaries of November 2005 peer-reviewed papers.
Next Article:Will China's monster mills wake up the west?

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