Sustainability in the industrial chain

Paul Boughton
Apparent adversaries become partners in the bigger picture. Femke Schaefer reports

For a number of years, end customers such as Eon, Shell and DSM have been setting themselves sustainability targets that apply to managers at various levels in the organisations. These days, bonuses are also linked to achieving sustainability targets. Such policies do not only stem from the government, but also from the strong social awareness that exists today. Young job-seekers want to work for a company that demonstrates awareness in dealing with our planet and its raw materials.

However, while end customers have long been interested and have had to work with such concepts as 'total cost of ownership' and 'CO2 restrictions', it's the contractors that develop the big industrial projects. And until now contractors in particular have shown that they don't see these concepts and their consequences as being their responsibility. Contractors have a fixed budget with which to implement a project and their purchasing is done on the basis of price, which means that they are almost only interested in the cheapest offers. The result is that tenders and solutions and any connected innovations and improvements that could be more efficient for end consumers (in materials, maintenance and energy use) are lost.[Page Break]

From this point of view it is logical to make an appeal to contractors and engineering companies. Instead of purchasing on price, these companies in particular should look for opportunities that can improve a project in its entirety on the following items: total cost of ownership, energy savings, materials savings, CO2 reduction, noise, maintenance and life span. In turn, end customers should reward contractors and engineers for finding the most sustainable solutions.

At Bronswerk Heat Transfer there are ample examples of better total cost of ownership in the sustainable solutions category. At our company all requests received are judged from the perspective of sustainability, better known as the Bronswerk Sustainability Program. We are always looking for solutions that save energy, reduce material use and produce less noise (even if not explicitly requested by the customer). Huge advantages can be achieved especially in the cooling of industrial processes. In this framework, high efficiency cooling is a good example of the Bronswerk Sustainability Program. Bronswerk high efficiency cooling can reduce energy use in the cooling of industrial processes by more than 50 per cent. If this could be applied in all industrial cooling globally, 1 in 6 power plants would become redundant. Furthermore, this can be done with at least 4-6dB(A) less noise. This means silent energy-saving solutions while, at the same time, achieving a good return on invested capital. And then we are only talking about this one approach.[Page Break]

Another very innovative, Bronswerk-developed sustainable solution is the high efficiency compressor. The technology behind this is based on new fluid dynamics for rotary machinery, through which compressors and pumps with an unprecedented 'flexible working area' instead of 'one point of operation' are created. For example, a small-sized, variable-rpm single-stage pump is more compact and lightweight (weight savings of more than 75 per cent) than most conventional pumps. And the unique compressor can pump high volumes while increasing pressure at the same time. This can have unprecedented effects for such industries as the offshore industry and FPSOs, or for processes in which heat pumps offer energy recovery possibilities. Our big customers make decisions regarding energy use, energy-saving or recovery over a 10-year period. Put simply, they calculate energy costs over 10 years at 0.10 ct/kwh. Usually then, the investment recovery time occurs easily within this 10-year period. Our customers do this because a 10-year recovery time always delivers a 10 per cent return on invested capital and a 5-year recovery time delivers returns of 20 per cent. Such return figures are not easy to achieve on the stock market.[Page Break]

For high pressure applications, Bronswerk has developed an extremely compact heat exchanger which is easy to maintain and weighs 40 per cent less. Heat exchanger inlets and outlets for such high pressure applications are composed mostly of extremely heavy forgings with a thick flange. The Compact Header heat exchanger doesn't use such a heavy header but instead uses a lighter header with specially-drilled channels, which results in significant weight savings. This influences the volume, the required raw materials and the energy requirements for both construction and operation. Thus, the savings in weight don't only apply to the heat exchanger but can also impact on the complete construction of an oil platform or FPSO. With the weight of the heat exchanger resulting in weight savings for all supporting constructions, its costs are paid through cost savings in these constructions. Using less material is good for the environment.

And then we're still only talking 'tip of the iceberg', those solutions that we have been able to realise without the cooperation of contractors. Co-operation throughout the entire chain would really take sustainability to the next level.

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Femke Schaefer is withBronswerk Heat Transfer, Nijkerk, The Netherlands.

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