Small things like a steam leak from a pipe may not seem like a big deal. But when you are operating a huge chemical or refining complex the energy loss numbers very quickly add up. Several years ago it was rumoured that Dow estimated such losses from steam or other small energy drains amounted to US$ 1 Billion, across all of their production units. Shell has also realized that when it comes to energy consumption small simple things matter.
For large oil and gas majors the benefits are much more than just cost, they are strategic in nature. National oil companies no longer look to the majors to lead operations but seek to work with them as partners. To have lucrative government contracts renewed oil & gas companies need to be innovative and competitive in terms of cost structures and speed. One senior executive remarked, ‘We want to build the world’s most competitive and innovative company. This is the ultimate goal. However, you will have also realized that the world in which we are operating is changing: that demand for energy is increasing, that new regulations suggest different regional energy demand profiles. And, at the same time, that our customers are clearer about the energy they want to sustain their lives…and they want to see rapid progress in developing better energy solutions for the future’. Energy efficient operations are a key component of this competitive strategy.
Often the solutions to more effective energy management are not technological sophisticated. In fact, they can be very simple. Running at a slightly lower operating pressure, using slightly less steam during a reactor catalyst change, having a simple white board showing planned versus actual consumption so operations can make prompt adjustments. One site saved US$ 2 Million in one year by implementing simple improvements such as:
- Daily energy reporting in start of shift meetings (white board, with plan versus actual consumption)
- Reduce Steaming in reactor processes
- Reduce operating pressures
- Recycle more dehydration water
- Increase crude rundown temperature and feed temperature
- Statistical Process Control control in key areas
- Stopping fans when not needed
- Stopping pumps when not required
- Improving wastewater handling
Although many of these improvements are simple, they can require a fundament shift in the way a business is run. They can require a change in behaviours, routines and culture. From functional silos, technology driven, focus on production with no structured approach energy to one where operations and technology work together, everyone focus on cost and margin and having a structured energy improvement approach.