The most neglected area of energy efficiency evaluation in the chemical process industries (CPI) is within the process. This is due in large part to a reluctance to possibly tamper with product quality and/or production rates. Although this is a legitimate concern, it neglects many viable energy saving opportunities. Also because of the unique nature of each process, the evaluation and development of an improvement methodology typically requires specialized expertise. As a result of these obstacles, utility systems (e.g., steam) and specific items of equipment (e.g., furnaces), which have well-known parameters and standard options for improvements, typically receive the focus of energy efficiency troubleshooting.
This article introduces a general approach to identify and evaluate energy efficiency improvement opportunities within the process. While the focus is on the improvement of the existing CPI operation and identifying and evaluating retrofit projects, many of the principles are also applicable for the evaluation and improvement of new plant designs.