Going Green Again...

Concerns about energy efficiency and environmental practices are back and gaining momentum, so automation vendors and their customers are helping ensure that manufacturing is one of the greenest sectors of the economy.

04/01/2008


Sidebars:
Application in green: Controls ensure quality, precision for biofuels plant
Programs help others turn green

Few would disagree. America — and the world — are going green. Whether through energy efficiency, environmental measures, safety and health practices, or all of the above, consumers and manufacturers alike are striving to earn the label “green.”

Thirty-plus years ago, similar efforts were underway. Oil shortages, Earth Day, recycling, energy management systems, all surged to the fore — then faded. Now they’re back. Technological advances have made possible and desirable the monitoring and measuring, the automation and controls, that are critical to becoming and remaining energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Beyond that, however, a more serious and sustainable atmosphere pervades the 2008 movement to “go green”: consumer pressure, growing global demand for finite resources and knowledge advances are driving manufacturers to develop more efficient products and processes, and implement more responsible ways of operating.

Why green? Why now?

“This time, I think we have a perfect convergence of concerns about climate change and high energy prices to drive an interest in sustainability,” says John White, energy management and environmental solutions manager for Eaton Corp. Most manufacturers agree.

“Early adopters who address green initiatives and become more socially responsible will find themselves at a competitive advantage,” says Rod Ellsworth, vice president of business solutions consulting and enterprise asset management at Infor. “Products will be better received and their companies will be more financially viable and flexible.” Info’s enterprise software supports various manufacturers’ green initiatives.

Today’s moves to become more energy efficient and environmentally conscious differ from previous efforts largely because of the drivers that are fueling it. Brandon Henning, global industry manager, food and beverage, GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, cites three primary reasons the current green movement will hold and grow. First, he says, “major retailers are demanding that the manufacturers they buy from be more green…and that they prove it. Companies must be green if they are going to continue to sell to large retailers, and retailers are not flexible about compliance. Merchants such as Wal-Mart audit how much energy, water, and other resources a supplier uses and vendors need to show reductions year after year.”

Bottom line of going green in manufacturing

Second, sustainability and energy efficiency make good business sense, because they drive costs out of the manufacturing process. “As plants evaluate ways to operate more effectively, they also are getting smarter about it. If done correctly, the benefits of efficiency efforts are greater than the costs,” says Henning. “Investments in controls, automation equipment, production management systems, like GE Fanuc Plant Applications and ERP systems, come together to improve overall effectiveness.”

Third, resources are becoming scarce. “Especially in industries such as food and beverage, changing weather patterns and climates affect the availability of raw materials,” says Henning. “Companies are looking at their long-term impact on the environment and their ability to acquire the raw materials they need.”

Practicing green manufacturing

Green initiatives and sustainability pervade the workings of many major manufacturers’ operations today. If yours is not among them, there are good reasons why it is time to start moving in that direction.

Most manufacturers approach the move to green from two angles: by implementing measures within their organizations, and by introducing environmentally friendly measures into their products for outreach to customers. Many have launched specific green initiatives and other programs. Monitoring and reporting functions are integral to nearly every effort, and harnessing the advantages of advanced automation and controls technology and software is common. While by no means comprehensive, here is look at a few such programs from automation and controls vendors who are themselves manufacturers (see also the list on page 44).

Among manufacturers’ green initiatives is one from Freescale, maker of custom chip sets and embedded control components. Freescale’s program includes steps to conserve resources in its own operation and to measure that it has had an impact on the industries it deals with. “In 2001,” says Paul Ballentine, company director of wireless strategy and champion of its sustainability efforts, “we set baseline guidelines for energy and resource use and goals for reducing that use. We established five measurable metrics: non-hazardous waste generation; hazardous waste generation; greenhouse gas emissions; energy consumption; and water consumption. Every facility manager worldwide is responsible for measuring and tracking these factors and reporting levels to a central department.”

In addition to reducing the amount of energy it consumes in making its products, the company has also cut the amount of energy used by its products. Says Ballentine, “We are concentrating on making Internet controllers that are more energy efficient and lower in power consumption, which benefits the customer. This equipment generates a lot of heat. Electricity is needed to run the chip and to cool the room. More efficient chips help out in both ways.”

Green efforts at Siemens Energy & Automation have taken the form of applying controls for efficiency in industry overall, and in the alternative fuels industry in particular. The company has worked with biofuels operations for a long time, with a number of installations using its automation and controls systems to help ensure quality and safety. Says Don Mack, the company’s PAS biofuels initiative lead, “We need to be better caretakers than we have been in the past. The energy bill signed recently increased mandates for ethanol and biodiesel production, and required vehicles increase fuel economy and reduce emissions. Using alternative fuels can help lower emissions and have a positive effect on the environment.”

The formalized green program launched by Opto 22 about two years ago focuses on internal conservation and awareness, as well on interaction with its customers. “First and foremost in any green effort,” suggests Benson Hougland, Opto 22 vice president, “should be self-examination. We looked at what we could do on the manufacturing floor. We increased our recycling efforts and also changed some of our processes to be more efficient.” The company’s efforts seek to leverage its own technology. “We connected systems using our own SNAP PACs,” explains Hougland, “giving us ready made monitoring and control.”

Rockwell Automation finds the term “green” too limiting, labeling its move to greater efficiency as “sustainable production.” John Nesi, vice president of market development at Rockwell Automation, says sustainable production is a broader social responsibility issue that “involves aspects of climate change, safety, energy efficiency, and environmental friendliness, and is the only long-term solution to overcoming rising energy, raw material, workers compensation, lost worker productivity, and product liability costs. Sustainable production also requires both information and control technologies. For example, a plant needs to be able to equip a smokestack to monitor it effectively and determine whether or not it’s burning cleanly. This type of regulation can now be done with expert system software tools and predictive modeling and control techniques.”

Justifying the efforts

The desire to be green is spawning new and modified products. Says Eaton’s White: “We make a UPS for use in large data centers that uses less power than a traditional UPS to help the customer manage energy more efficiently, and requires 80% less energy to produce than it did just a few years ago. In another example, our medium-voltage switchgear does not use SF 6 (sulfur hexafluoride), a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming impact 23,900 times greater than CO2.”

Green practices have led Schneider Electric to deploy more integrated solutions to optimize capital and operating expenditures. Says Cassie Quaintance, the company’s energy market segment manager, “The plant infrastructure and factory floor used to be independent organizations. Now both share common energy efficiency goals. By integrating our energy management system, manufacturing execution, and batch management software — three systems that, in recent years, would have been considered distinct and managed by separate organizations — and by allowing the exchange of data and parameters, we enable organizations to drive towards their overall energy efficiency goals. By integrating these systems, and by adding features and functionality to existing solutions, we are bringing new efficiencies to the plant infrastructure and the factory floor.”

Honeywell is heavily involved in green initiatives, both internally and in its outreach to customers. More than half of its solutions are aimed at lowering production costs or reducing energy consumption. “We’re helping people identify energy efficiency opportunities; make a business case for those projects to get approval; and apply the technology, implement the solutions, and evaluate the results,” says Brendan Sheehan, senior marketing manager, process industries, Honeywell Process Solutions. Among recent efforts was the installation of a DCS and advanced control system in a large pulp-and-paper mill that led to a savings of about 2% in energy consumption or about $1 million annually. “Overall, the company was able to consume fewer resources per ton of paper produced — a compelling business case for the implementation of efficiency solutions,” says Sheehan.

Justifying those environmental and energy conservation projects admittedly can be an issue. “Sometimes there are good business reasons for these changes,” says Freescale’s Ballentine. “Installing a better boiler or more efficient equipment generally has a solid financial payback. Other times, a measure is just the right thing to do. Any for-profit corporation needs to balance those measures. There are always trade-offs.”

But it is a fallacy that green efforts will add to the cost of manufacturing, stresses Infor’s Ellsworth. “Such measures are more likely to reduce the costs of making these products. Energy is probably the single largest O&M [operations and maintenance] expense in the manufacture of a product. If a company can operate and maintain its assets at less energy cost and consumption than previously, they not only conserve energy, they generate fewer emissions and reduce their carbon footprint per product produced as well.” Ellsworth’s company now factors energy consumption and efficiency into all the ongoing O&M of an asset to help set standards for quality, availability, and capacity at the least energy cost.

Support from around the world

By all appearances, green is going global, with virtually no country or culture not interested in sustainability. Eaton’s White points out, “We’re getting inquiries from our Middle East counterparts about green buildings. Developing cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are committing to use LEED practices.” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is an environmental rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.)

Admittedly, however, the focus and extent of the interest in energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions varies from region to region around the world.

The Chinese government has stated that it aims to quadruple GDP by 2020, while only doubling energy use for the same period. This increase in energy efficiency will be challenging, points out Honeywell’s Sheehan. “It may be a competing requirement with increasing production that has seen energy in China increasing faster than GDP in recent years,” he explains. “China has several key energy saving processes outlined in its 2004 plan. These include coal-fired industrial boiler projects, cogeneration projects, alternative fuel vehicles and high efficiency motors, energy efficient lighting, and others.”

According to Rockwell’s Nesi, U.S.-based global companies are among the first to be proactive. “Many are looking at their global carbon footprints and ways to apply reduction measures across their facilities worldwide. Europe is already conscientious about these issues and limits industrial emissions. However, observes Honeywell’s Sheehan, “Europe tends to be more focused on reducing emissions because there is a tax associated with exceeding certain limits.”

Building a greener future

European-based Schneider submits sustainability reports to the European Union each year. As a result, it has benchmarked all energy and water use at all facilities globally since 2004. “We’re able to benchmark against our energy use and track our progress in reducing our impact on the environment,” says Quaintance. “One thing I like about tracking greenhouse gas emissions or measuring a carbon footprint is that it makes a company’s environmental impact very clear. It’s not greenwashing [making a green statement but having nothing with which to back it up].”

Most everyone agrees more U.S. legislation is likely over time. “Consumers expect and demand certain quality levels be met, says GE Fanuc’s Mike Yost, product marketing manager for production management software. “They will drive retailers’ actions, which in turn will affect the shop floor and influence legislation. When there is need in the consumer ranks, there is the potential for government involvement.”

In the opinion of Rockwell Automation’s Nesi, many manufacturers are looking for standards to which they might comply and/or benchmarks against which to measure their operations. “The processes manufacturers want to mitigate require measurement and recording. Many of these levels are not yet mandated by law, but manufacturers see it coming. To get ahead in a regulatory environment, they are striving to establish their own standards now.”

Says Memphis Biofuels’ Ken Arnold, “I don’t see oil prices retreating, and the impetus on Capitol Hill is sufficient to make sure incentives and mandates stay in place to keep the biofuels industry moving forward.”

Until utilities can provide other types of fuels, says Infor’s Ellsworth — and that will take a significant amount of time — manufacturers will have to use carbon- or fossil-based fuels and conserve through demand-side programs that help users reduce consumption sufficiently to keep carbon emissions at least holding steady. He acknowledges that efforts must continue in the development of such alternative energy sources as wind farms, fuel cells, and perhaps even nuclear, as well.

Companies agree that green is not solely a compliance or corporate responsibility issue; it’s good business. It’s more profitable business. Energy prices are only a small part of the equation, according to Rockwell Automation’s Nesi.

“Companies that can demonstrate sustainable production stand to gain a competitive advantage long term,” says Nesi. “Investors are seeking out companies that are socially responsible, while at the same time investment groups are seeking to identify companies with strong sustainability practices as preferred investment options. Someday, oil prices may drop, but by then a whole group of new alternative energy development projects will have sprung up. The U.S. government is funding ethanol, hydrogen, and fuel cell development projects, and that investment is not likely to stop.”

Many resources exist for creating your own green initiatives and programs. A list, along with links to Websites for more information, is available online.



Online Extra

 

Programs help others turn green

A smattering of green resources

Many resources exist for compiling additional information on green initiatives and programs. A few, including those mentioned in this article, are listed below, along with links to Websites for more information.

 

•acilitate dialogue, supported by quality information, from which a rational response to climate change will emerge.

 

 

•cluding engineers and contractors to share ideas and promote greener building. It includes more than 100 educational sessions and LEED workshops

 

•w technologies to improve data center performance against the defined metrics; and promoting the adoption of energy efficient standards, processes, measurements, and technologies.

 

•ean energy for their citizens. Its mandate incorporates the “three Es” of balanced energy policy making: energy security, economic development, and environmental protection. Its World Energy Outlook publication is said to be an authoritative source of global long-term energy market analysis.

 

•751.

 

•of private clients to improve the benefits of fuel ethanol production and use.

 

 

•ues. Visit also U.S. Department of Energy (www.energy/gov/energyefficiency/index.htm).

 

•es and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria. It is also the sponsor of Greenbuild (above).


Author Information

Jeanine Katzel is a consulting editor for Control Engineering. Reach her at jkatzel@sbcglobal.net .


Application in green: Controls ensure quality, precision for biofuels plant

One response to rising oil costs is the development of alternative fuels, among them soy-and animal-fat-based products. An operation that has been helping to bolster the supply of these green energy resources is Memphis Biofuels, which has survived and thrived through price spirals in part because of advanced automation and control systems in its processes.

When the company launched in June 2006, oil prices were high and feedstock costs low. By the time the facility was ready to go online six months later, however, soybean oil prices were up, making it difficult for any but the largest biodiesel producers to make the product. Memphis Biofuels made major changes to its process so that it could use animal fat instead.

Critical to the success of the transition was the installation of a Siemens PCS-7 control system, which gave the operation the flexibility to modify its processes. “We control the entire operation with a PC using the PCS 7,” says Ken Arnold, company president and CEO. “It gives us complete visibility of the controls and of what’s happening in the control room, so that our engineers can direct the operation. This is a continuous process with all closed vessels and tanks. Without the clarity and simplicity of a control system that allows both operator and engineer to see everything that is going on, we wouldn’t have been able to do this successfully. We would have needed a lot more training with conventional controls.”

Operation of the system began with one control screen. “But we knew almost immediately,” admits Arnold, “that we had too many process control loops for one screen. We went almost immediately to four, then five, now eight control screens running at the same time so that we can see everything that’s going on at once.” System integrator CCA Wesco worked with the company to develop the screens and Siemens’ staff provides telephone support.

Considering the impact of biodiesels and alternative fuels on the energy arena overall, Arnold stresses the importance of making a quality product, and how his company’s investment in controls has helped ensure that quality. “We have invested in controls for our processes and also in our laboratory,” he explains. “In our lab, we monitor the process and test the finished product. One cannot just assume a product is running to spec. Without proper testing and proper process control, you cannot ensure that you are producing the same quality material every time.”

For more information, visit:

Programs help others turn green

A number of automation suppliers have developed programs for encouraging green activities by their customers and for making their own operations more environmentally friendly. A few are listed here.

Design Challenge — Freescale Semiconductor . This global contest awards $61,000 in prize money for the best green design. It centers on green products and works in conjunction with Freescale’s regional developer conferences. Ten finalists and one winner per region will be selected at each conference. From among regional winners, one global winner will be selected. Criteria include using Freescale products and achieving a green benefit, such as a more efficient version of an existing product or a method that conserves a resource. Freescale is also a platinum sponsor of Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility, an automotive engineering competition promoting fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.

 

Green Grant Program — Opto 22 . Program provides free Opto 22 hardware, typically PACs (programmable automation controllers), and some engineering support to initiate a green-based effort. Each request is evaluated on its own merit. Recipients have no obligations to Opto 22.

 

Vision Project — Eaton Corp. Internal program focuses on reducing corporate greenhouse gas emissions 18% by 2012. The Vision Project also includes collaboration with CABA (Continental Automated Buildings Association) and Carnegie-Mellon University, to help Eaton document efforts to “green” its manufacturing facilities. Eaton hopes its efforts may lead to the development of a prescriptive for making an industrial facility green, following the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating criteria for buildings.

 

Energy Action Plan — Schneider Electric. EAP examines Schneider’s manufacturing processes and energy use at all facilities globally. It focuses on development of products and technologies that enable customers to reduce energy consumption. Over the last three years, the program has saved some $3.7 million and reduced energy consumption about 12% per production site employee.

 

Ecomagination — General Electric. Ecomagination, or imagination at work, is General Electric’s corporate commitment to environmental responsibility. The program puts into practice GE’s belief that financial and environmental performance can work together to drive company growth, while taking on some of the world’s biggest challenges. It supports the company’s commitment to products and services that are economically advantageous and ecologically sound.

 

McKinsey & Co. report: Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions — Honeywell. Among Honeywell’s major green initiatives has been to underwrite the McKinsey report, which determined that a reduction equivalent to 600 megatons of CO2 could be achieved through a variety of abatement options. Read the report at



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