EPI Engineering, a Houston-based engineering firm specializing in energy and water optimization studies, has been named a 2013 Industrial Energy Technology Conference (IETC) Energy Award Winner for the impressive energy and water savings that resulted from an EPI plant-wide optimization study of the TPC Group Houston North Operations facility.
In 2010-2011, TPC Group Houston Operations was evaluating the opportunity for production expansion and needed to assess the capacity of existing utility systems including steam, condensate, compressed air, nitrogen, natural gas, fuel gas, cooling water, and firewater systems. These systems had not been evaluated in detail since their original design in the early 1940’s. Detailed simulation flow models of each utility system were developed and tuned to match existing plant data in order to identify available capacity of each system and understand current limitations. In addition, a detailed steam balance was developed to fully understand steam production and demand needs.
This approach is unique in several ways. Simulation models of large, plant-wide utility systems are typically not developed until the detailed design phase of projects while estimated approaches are commonly done in Front End Loading stages of a project evaluation. Also, optimization of existing utility systems is not routinely done in combination with capital expansion projects. However, TPC senior management, based on past positive experience in this area, decided to model and optimize their utility systems in detail to evaluate the impact of the plant expansion which was the key reason these savings were realized. EPI Engineering was selected for the flow simulation study since they had proven expertise in this area and were also a business partner with EPCON Software, the company who developed the flow simulation software of choice.
The majority of the savings were a result of optimizing the current utility systems before evaluating how to expand them to meet the requirements of the new capital projects.The savings realized positively impacted both current operations and the funding approval of the plant expansion capital project which is now moving forward. The savings that resulted from the study includes:
It is also important to note that in Texas, as in many parts of the country, water supplies are under stress and water availability can become a limiting factor in production expansions. The utility modeling resulted in a reduced future demand for both energy and water for the process cooling system at the plant, compared to the planned cooling water system which was sized to meet the process expansion.
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