ST MARYS CEMENT
When a $5,000 investment results in nearly $245,000 in new revenue over a seven-month period, you know you’re doing something right.
Tapping into that new revenue – courtesy of the Ontario Power Authority’s Demand Response (DR) 1 program – was item number 44 on a priority list developed by a group of employees at St Marys Cement’s Bowmanville plant. Operating under the name E=MC2, the Energy Management and Conservation Committee developed a 68-item action plan to direct the plant’s efforts to reduce its energy consumption and costs.
St Marys Cement Inc. is a leading manufacturer of cement and related construction products in Canada and the United States. The company operates two cement plants in Ontario – one in St. Marys, where the company was founded in 1912, and one in Bowmanville – and has produced building materials used in such landmark projects as the CN Tower, Roy Thomson Hall, Maple Leaf Gardens and the Darlington Nuclear Station. The company is now part of Grupo Votorantim, a diversified Brazilian conglomerate with operations in cement, pulp and paper, aluminum and metals, film, chemicals, agricultural products, financial services, energy and international trade.
The multi-disciplinary committee was started by Fabio Garcia, Production Manager, and Jim Storey, Electrical Maintenance Manager for the Bowmanville operations. Both men recognized there was room for improvement in the way St Marys managed its energy consumption. In early 2006, Garcia and Storey assembled a cross-functional team with representation from production, quarrying, processing, electrical maintenance and other departments to ensure all affected business units had input into the committee’s mandate, direction and activities.
With the support of management, the committee also developed a Sustainable Energy Plan to identify energy management activities, provide a mechanism to communicate the status of these activities to key stakeholders, capture tracking and measurement efforts, and guide the company’s energy efficiency priorities and investments.
Already, those activities have delivered $550,000 in savings and $258,000 in energy rebates. “Some of the lowest cost projects yielded the biggest paybacks,” Garcia says. “The single most important change we made was rescheduling some of our operations to off-peak hours.” This concept, known as load shifting, has saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We’re glued to the IESO website,” Garcia continues. “We’re constantly monitoring the wholesale price of electricity to plan our operations. And while it’s not the easiest way to manage a plant, it’s definitely the most economical.”
While the kiln at the heart of St Marys’ cement production must run continuously and cannot be shut down, other energy-intensive processes were easily shifted to off-peak hours, including milling, grinding, material handling, fuel unloading, and conveying.
In addition to using the price of electricity to guide daily operations at the Bowmanville plant, control room operators also rely on alarms set to go off if the plant approaches pre-determined demand thresholds. By lowering its instantaneous demand for electricity by 500 kilowatts (kW), St Marys has been able to trim almost $2,000 from its monthly electricity bill.
Some of the other easy fixes implemented at the plant include the addition of monitoring and control software, retrofitting light fixtures in the office and production areas, installation of occupancy sensors in the office space, raising the thermostat setpoint for baghouse fans used in dust control, and automating processes to shut down equipment when inactive.
Each area of the plant is now monitored individually for its electricity usage, with instantaneous values and targets displayed in the main control room. After careful evaluation of the potential impacts, operators made a bold and daring suggestion – the elimination of one of two 1,500 hp fans powering the bypass system. Although both fans are still available, only one is in service at any given time, leaving the second fan available for back-up when maintenance is required. This process improvement alone saved the company $96,213 in 2007.
In addition to focusing on process and equipment improvements, Garcia and Storey also turned their attention to financial incentives available for energy efficiency projects. By tapping the Electricity Retrofit Incentive Program (ERIP) and Sustainable Technology Development Canada (STDC), St Marys secured funding from external sources. And despite the company’s satisfaction with the Ontario Power Authority’s voluntary DR 1 program, Storey is also considering a shift to the OPA’s DR 3 program, a lucrative demand response program with contractual obligations to reduce load during certain periods of the year.
Members of the E=MC2 team made a number of strategic suggestions, including the development of a “performance scorecard” used to assess the plant’s energy performance in five key areas: energy data management, energy supply management, energy use in facilities, equipment efficiency and organizational integration.
They have also taken a broad approach to raising awareness of energy efficiency projects among the plant’s 130 employees by branding all related material with the E=MC2 logo, publishing newsletter articles about conservation issues, providing training to new and existing employees, participating in Earth Hour, displaying the plant’s awards for energy and environmental achievement, and scheduling an annual Energy Conservation Week at which employees learn about energy management at home and in the workplace.
There is no employee at the Bowmanville plant with the title of Energy Manager. “Energy efficiency is not one person’s job,” says Storey. “It’s a shared responsibility.”
But good energy management practices don’t end with employees. Instead, Garcia and Storey have called on their suppliers to suggest new tools, techniques, products and processes. “We work closely with our suppliers to innovate,” Storey explains. “With their help, we have been able to make some important changes at the plant that contribute to our energy efficiency goals.”
It’s this broad and all-encompassing approach to energy management that earned St Marys its Certification in Energy Excellence (CEE) from 360 Energy Inc., a Burlington-based energy services firm. “Recertification requires a demonstration of continuous improvement over three years,” Garcia says. “We’re always re-evaluating what we do and how we do it, and we look forward to seeing what sort of improvements we can make in the next couple of years.”