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Special Section: Energy Efficiency

A Ten-Step Process
for Energy Analysis
Michael L. Stowe, P.E. Understand the energy used to transform
Advanced Energy
raw material into finished product
to enhance energy efficiency.

he industrial sector accounts for about 34% of along the way. Evaluating the transformation steps and
total U.S. energy consumption (1). This energy is energy inputs provides clues about where to look for energy
consumed as electricity that is purchased or self-­ savings. Although transformation processes vary widely by
generated and as fossil fuels, such as natural gas, propane, industry, detailing them from dock to dock is essential to
fuel oils, and coal. Understanding these energy sources finding energy-efficiency opportunities.
and their associated uses, equipment, efficiencies, costs, Energy audits typically examine facility support systems,
availabilities, and waste streams is critical to developing a such as compressed air, lights, and chillers, to find opportu-
sustainable energy-efficiency program. nities for energy savings. Manufacturing processes and the
Every manufacturing plant has raw materials that come transformation steps that involve mixing, reacting, distill-
into the receiving dock and finished products that leave ing, drying, and curing, however, are ripe with potential for
Energy In
from the shipping dock. Between the receiv- savings as well. Understanding these processes and their
ing and shipping docks transformation occurs. associated equipment, technologies, and support systems is
Transformation adds value to the materials in key to finding energy-efficient solutions.
Ein a step-by-step process, and energy is required This article discusses energy efficiency, energy inten-
q Figure 1. Consider the analogy of water flowing
sity, and transformation, and presents a ten-step method for
through a pipe — water represents the energy and conducting an industrial process energy analysis. The tech-
Process the pipe represents the process. Any leaks in the pipe nique focuses on a process block diagram that shows energy
are akin to steam, heat, and other losses that degrade inputs, energy wastes, energy recovery, and possible energy
energy efficiency.
improvements. Some blocks may have multiple energy
inputs, including electricity, natural gas, steam, and chilled
water. Understanding the type and magnitude of these inputs
helps to prioritize processes for energy improvements and
can uncover new technology recommendations.

Loss Energy efficiency and intensity

Energy efficiency. The total energy into a system is Ein,
which is the amount that appears on your utility bill. The
Energy Out Eout total energy out of the system is Eout, which represents the
useful energy that adds value to the product during the pro-

36  November 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
cess. The difference between Ein and Eout is the loss. Loss is The same approach of evaluating each transformation
wasted energy that is not useful to the process and degrades step can be applied to complex manufacturing systems using
efficiency. For energy efficiency to be sustainable, energy the following ten steps. Consider the process to manufacture
losses must be identified, documented, tracked, corrected, formaldehyde (Figure 3) to illustrate the methodology.
and prevented from recurring. If the loss were zero, the
system would be 100% efficient — but this does not occur in Step 1. Identify the raw materials
the real world. Some industrial processes have one main raw material,
A simple way to envision energy efficiency is to think while others have dozens or even hundreds. Raw materials
about water flowing through a pipe — the water represents can come into the process at many places along the transfor-
the energy and the pipe is the process. Ein would be the mation journey. To determine the type and amount of energy
water into the system in gallons per minute (gpm), and a loss required in the system, first consider these aspects of the
could be a leak in the pipe that reduces the amount of water raw materials:
available to add value to the product (Figure 1). • type of material, e.g., metal, chemical, mineral, textile,
Using the water pipe example, we can calculate energy vegetable, finished goods
efficiency. If Ein is 100 gpm and the loss due to leaks is 10 • physical state, e.g., solid, liquid, gas, subassembly
gpm, Eout is 90 gpm, and the energy efficiency of the system • delivery method, e.g., tanker ship, tanker truck, com-
is 90% (Eout/Ein). mon carrier, railcar
While water leaking from a pipe is a useful visualization, • storage methods, e.g., dry bulk, tank farm, warehouse,
a process heated by natural gas is more realistic. In this case,
Ein is 1,000,000 Btu/hr of natural gas, and the fuel combus-
tion loss is 100,000 Btu/hr, stack loss is 250,000 Btu/hr,
stored heat loss is 75,000 Btu/hr, furnace wall loss is
50,000 Btu/hr, opening loss is 25,000 Btu/hr, and conveyor
loss is 20,000 Btu/hr — for a total loss of 520,000 Btu/hr.
Eout is the difference between Ein and the total loss, which is
480,000 Btu/hr, making the energy efficiency of the system
48%. Over half of the original natural gas energy input is
lost and does not provide useful work in the process.
Energy intensity. The energy intensity of a manufacturing
process is the amount of energy that is required to produce
one logical unit of product (e.g., kWh/ton metal melted at a
foundry, MMBtu/bbl of oil refined at refinery, MMBtu/lb of p Figure 2. Modeling produces a useful shape from a lump of raw clay
but requires energy inputs from human labor and an electric motor.
polymer produced at a chemical plant).
Energy intensity provides an order-of-magnitude esti- Table 1. Each step in the process to transform a lump of
mate of the significance of energy in the production process, clay into a finished vase requires energy inputs.
and it varies widely from industry to industry. Process Step Energy Input Value Added
Storing the clay Storage warehouse None
Transformation utilities, e.g., lights,
Each step of the transformation process should add value heating/cooling,
with minimal waste. Every step requires some type and ventilation
amount of energy to carry out the transformation. Certain Modeling the Human labor Create a useful
steps require a large amount of energy, while others require clay vase Electric motor shape
very little. Outlining each step and the required energy Firing the clay Electric Strength
inputs is useful for planning and prioritizing energy projects. vase in a kiln resistance heat Durability
To understand transformation, consider the process that Painting a glaze Human labor Aesthetics
produces a vase from a lump of clay. Figure 2 depicts a step on the vase
in the process with energy inputs from manual human labor Refiring the glazed Electic Aesthetics
and possibly an electric motor to turn the wheel. This step vase in a kiln resistance heat Protective coating
adds value by transforming the clay into a useful shape. Storing the finished Storage warehouse None
Table 1 presents the details of this transformation. The steps clay vase utilities, e.g., lights,
that require a kiln are the obvious big energy users and heating/cooling,
would be logical candidates to evaluate for energy savings.

Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) CEP  November 2018  37
Special Section: Energy Efficiency

sacks, pallets, cardboard boxes. Step 4. Develop the process block diagram
Defining the raw materials and their details is an initial You have done your homework and completed a
step in creating a process block diagram. We will follow detailed tour of the manufacturing site. Now, you are ready
these materials on their journey to their final destination, to flesh out the process block diagram. Use your notes, con-
while evaluating the energy use at each point along the way. versations, utility data, and possibly some online research
to document the transformation steps in the process. The
Step 2. Characterize the final product(s) product of your work should look something like Figure 3,
The final product is the destination of the transformation which shows the basic steps necessary to transform metha-
journey. Manufacturing plants are in the business of making nol and air into formaldehyde. Next, evaluate each block to
money, so raw materials are brought in, transformed into identify the energy components, including energy inputs,
something useful, and then sold for a profit. The manufactur- energy wastes, energy recovery possibilities, energy effi-
ing plant adds value, hopefully very efficiently, to the raw ciency opportunities, and new technology opportunities
materials and produces a final product of a designated design (Steps 5–9).
and quality. Answer these questions to characterize the final
product(s): Step 5. Catalog energy inputs
• Is the final product a completed consumer good that is Each step of the process block diagram must be reviewed
ready for sale, such as a car, computer, or box of cereal? to identify the primary energy inputs required to perform the
• Is the final product an intermediate finished item that transformation. Energy inputs may be direct energy, such
will become the raw material at another manufacturing site, as electricity, natural gas, propane, and fuel oil, or derived
such as steel slabs, methanol, or polyvinyl chloride plastic energy, such as compressed air, steam, and chilled water.
pellets? Repeating this analysis for every step helps to produce an
• How is the final product packaged? overall qualitative energy usage model. From Figure 3, we
• How is the final product shipped? can observe that:
• electric-driven motors account for a large portion of the
Step 3. Tour the plant energy load used by pumps, blowers, and fans
There are many possible ways to get from Point A — the • the chemical reaction in the silver catalyst bed is exo-
raw materials — to Point B — the final product. Touring the thermic, so the process has its own internal heat source that
manufacturing site with process operators and maintenance is used to generate process steam
personnel as guides is essential to defining the transforma- • several heat exchangers are required for process cool-
tion steps and developing the process block diagram. The ing and use electrically driven chillers as the cooling source.
walk-through should ideally be conducted chronologically, Completing an energy input analysis for each block in
from raw materials to finished products. During the plant the diagram creates an overall picture of the process energy
tour, take good notes and include: consumption. If available, information to help quantify
• major transformation steps the energy input is valuable, including motor horsepower,
• specific process parameters for each step (e.g., tempera- actual metered cubic feet of natural gas, electric process
ture, flowrate, pressure, material characteristics) sub­metering, etc.
• energy inputs into each step (e.g., electricity, natural
gas, steam, chilled water, compressed air) Step 6. Identify energy wastes
• equipment used to complete the steps Energy is wasted to some degree in every step of the
• facility equipment used to support the steps (e.g., air manufacturing process. Major wastes should be identified
compressors, boilers, chillers, cooling towers) when you are analyzing the process block diagram. Identify-
• waste streams (e.g., combustion stack gases, waste­ ing process waste streams is the first step to minimize them,
water, metal shavings, sawdust). recover valuable energy from them, and reduce their envi-
When you tour the plant, bring a blank process block ronmental impact. Figure 3 includes several waste streams:
diagram template that indicates the raw material starting • tail gas — a combustible gas (primarily hydrogen) —
point and final product end point and has empty boxes in produced by the scrubbers and used in a boiler to produce
between to take notes. The tour may last anywhere from a steam for site use
couple of hours to a couple of days, depending on the size • fluegas exhaust from the combustion of the tail gas
and complexity of the plant. Ask your tour guides questions • blowdown from the tail gas boiler
and get their contact information for follow-up requests. • wastewater from the scrubbers, which requires addi-
Record or photograph nameplate data for large pieces of tional energy input for downstream processing in a waste­
equipment that you know consume a lot of energy. water treatment plant.
Article continues on p. 40

38  November 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
Process Energy Energy Waste Facility
K In and Out
Step Loads Sources Stream System
Y Chilled Water Tail gas Steam Condensate City Water


Compressed Air

To Entire
Process Chiller

Raw Material: Methanol Methanol Methanol t Figure 3. This

Storage Tank Condenser process block
diagram for the
production of
Methanol Pumps shows the inputs
and outputs of the
Ambient Air Purifier
Methanol process.


Silver Catalyst Beds Column
Condensate Pumps

Exothermic Rxn Heat

Fluegas Process Steam

Boiler Combustion Distillation

Tail gas
Burner Column Bottom
Heat Exchanger

Combustion Air
Supply Fan Process Chiller
Motor Primary
Scrubber Heat Exchanger
City Scrubber
Water Electricity
Electricity Raw
Formaldehyde Raw
Tank Formaldehyde
Electricity Wastewater Pumps

Final Product:

Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) CEP  November 2018  39
Special Section: Energy Efficiency

Step 7. Identify energy recovery possibilities recommendations might include:

The energy waste streams should be examined for their • establish and maintain a compressed air leak survey
potential for energy recovery. Observations of the waste and repair program, which is inexpensive and has immediate
streams in Figure 3 might include: payback
• The waste tail gas from the scrubbers is already being • where feasible, replace air-driven mixers and dia-
used to generate site steam, which is good. phragm pumps with electric-driven mixers and pumps
• In the tail gas boiler, hot stack fluegas could be used • use zero-loss condensate drains on the compressed air
to preheat tail gas boiler combustion air and tail gas boiler system throughout the plant.
feedwater. Chilled water supply. Several steps in the formaldehyde
• In the tail gas boiler, hot blowdown could be used to process require chilled water. Ensure that cooling towers are
preheat tail gas boiler makeup water. clean and properly maintained, and that chilled water equip-
• There may be an economical way to extract valuable ment and piping are properly insulated. Additionally, con-
methanol or formaldehyde from the scrubber wastewater. sider installing a condenser on the water side of the stream
precipitator system. Typical savings are 10–15% in chiller
Step 8. Pinpoint energy-efficiency opportunities energy and 20–25% in makeup water. Energy-efficiency
Each block in the process block diagram should be eval- opportunities for water-cooled chillers include:
uated for energy-efficiency opportunities. Depending on the • reset the condenser water
energy input for the process operation, a variety of options • clean the heat exchanger used for process cooling loads
may be available to reduce energy consumption. The motors, • clean the condenser and evaporator tubing on the chiller
compressed air, chilled water supply, and boiler/steam • to help avoid overcooling, operate at the highest chilled
supply in Figure 3 have the potential for energy-efficiency water temperature that will still maintain process parameters.
improvements. Boilers, steam, and combustion. The process steps in
Motors. Motors consume a significant amount of process Figure 3 generate heat to make steam that is used for process
energy. The biggest cost over the life of a motor, by far, is heating, as well as tail gas that is used in a process boiler.
the electricity to turn it — typically accounting for 96% Assuming a delivered cost for natural gas of $6 per deka­
of a motor’s total lifecycle costs. Maximizing the overall therm (1 dth = 1 million Btu), exposed uninsulated steam
efficiency of the plant’s motor population has energy-saving piping can cost $200 per foot per year in lost heat. Extrapo-
benefits. This can be accomplished by implementing a motor lating this over a large processing plant, 100 equivalent
management program (2, 3), specifying National Electrical linear feet of uninsulated steam piping would cost $20,000
Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Premium (4) efficient per year in lost heat (5). Opportunities for energy-efficiency
motors wherever possible, and implementing a motor repair improvements on these systems include:
and replacement policy. • ensure combustion equipment and steam piping are
Variable-frequency drives (VFDs). Where variable loads properly insulated
and good feedback parameters exist, VFDs help save energy. • monitor the oxygen content of the fluegas to ensure the
Conduct a detailed analysis of VFD/motor combinations and most efficient combustion and reduce nitrogen oxide and
implement where operationally and economically feasible. sulfur oxide releases (6), which will also reduce the amount
Candidates for VFDs in the process in Figure 3 include of natural gas consumed, thereby lowering the amount of
blowers, chiller cooling tower fans, chilled water pumps, and carbon released
air compressors. • conduct a proper steam trap survey using a thermo-
Compressed air. Compressed air is a very expensive graphic camera or ultrasonic leak detector, and perform
and inefficient energy source. A 1/8-in.-dia. leak on a maintenance to save energy on steam systems.
100-psig compressed air system costs approximately $1,000
per year for the electricity to compress the air for just that Step 9. Identify new technology opportunities
leak. Multiply this by 100 leaks across a large process Implementing new or existing process technologies can
system, and a plant can spend up to $100,000 per year on provide energy savings in addition to those identified in
wasted electricity for compressed air alone. Step 8. A goal is to reduce energy intensity, and a different
In the formaldehyde process in Figure 3, compressed air technology may lower the energy required to transform one
is used primarily for controls, valve operation, tank over- logical unit of product.
pressure, air-driven mixer motors, and air-driven diaphragm For example, in Figure 3, the wastewater from the scrub-
pumps. The process contains numerous air solenoid blocks, bers could be handled differently. In the current process, the
air piping and tubing, air valves, and air-actuated devices wastewater is drained away to an onsite wastewater treat-
— all of which can develop costly leaks. Energy-efficiency ment plant. Membrane filters or reverse osmosis systems

40  November 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
could clean the wastewater and extract valuable methanol Closing thoughts
or formaldehyde from the stream. The energy and financials Pursuing energy improvements often produces benefits in
would need to be evaluated to see if the idea is feasible, but other areas as well. These non-energy benefits may include
this type of new technology investigation can frequently greater plant productivity, higher product quality, fewer pro-
provide energy efficiency and energy intensity solutions. cess bottlenecks, better worker safety, more available floor
Two different process examples take advantage of new space, and lower emissions and waste stream volumes.
technology opportunities for energy improvements that When exploring new technologies, a combination may
relate to product coatings. produce the best energy-saving results and, depending on
Example 1. A water-based product coating is dried in the process, there may be numerous technology opportu-
a natural gas convection oven. A possible new technol- nities available. Any idea must be subjected to rigorous
ogy opportunity would be to switch to a coating cured by energy and financial analyses to prove its feasibility prior
ultraviolet (UV) light. Making the change from natural gas to implementation. CEP

convection to UV curing has many potential advantages,

including instant curing, high coating quality, fast line speed,
low exhaust emissions, lower energy intensity, shorter oven
Literature Cited
residence time, and smaller floor space requirements. 1. U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Energy Consump-
tion Estimates by Sector,”, EIA,
Example 2. A volatile organic compound (VOC)-based Washington, DC (2015).
product coating is cured in a natural gas convection oven. 2. Advanced Energy, “Motor Survey Program,” www.advanced­
A possible new technology opportunity would be to switch
to a powder-based coating system cured with infrared (IR) vey_2017.pdf, Advanced Energy, Raleigh, NC (2017).
heating. A powder coating and IR curing system could be 3. Advanced Energy, “Advanced Energy’s Horsepower Bulletin,”
advantageous because it offers efficient heat transfer, rapid MAD_Horsepower_bulletin_final.pdf, Advanced Energy,
heat-up, low emissions, fast line speeds, lower energy inten- Raleigh, NC (2015).
sity, shorter oven residence time, and smaller floor space 4. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, “NEMA
requirements. Premium Program,”
NEMA-Premium-Motors.aspx, NEMA, Arlington, VA
(accessed Sept. 21, 2018).
Step 10. Implement solutions
5. The Engineering Tool Box, “Heat Loss from Steel Pipes at
After you perform the process energy analysis and Various Temperature Difference between Pipes and Ambient
develop the process block diagram, the next and most impor- Air,”
tant step is to implement some of the energy-saving solu- html (accessed Sept. 21, 2018).
tions you have identified. Savings will not be realized until 6. The Engineering Tool Box, “Boiler Efficiency,” www.engi- (accessed
the results are actually applied. Sept. 21, 2018).
Your analysis will produce a detailed set of opportunities
for energy improvements. Compile the results in a table or
MICHAEL L. STOWE, P.E., CEM, PEM, is a senior
spreadsheet so they can be evaluated, prioritized, budgeted, energy engineer with Advanced Energy in
and tracked for implementation. Then, repeat the approach Raleigh, NC (;
periodically for continuous improvement (Figure 4). Phone: (919) 857-9043), where he works
with utilities, industrial equipment vendors,
and manufacturing plants to find the
best technical and most energy-efficient
the Plant
solutions for industrial processes. He has
over 28 years of experience with industrial
manufacturing processes and plants,
including roles as production manager,
Implement Learn maintenance manager, and plant engineer.
Solutions the Process He has developed and delivered numerous presentations on industrial
energy efficiency and related topics for utilities, industrial trade associa-
Energy-Efficiency tions, and technical groups. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in
Program North Carolina, a Certified Energy Manager (CEM), a Professional Energy
Manager (PEM), a Certified Practitioner Energy Management Systems-
Industrial (CP EnMS-Industrial), and a Superior Energy Performance,
Performance Verifier (SEP PV). He is a member of several trade associa-
tions: American Foundry Society (AFS), ASM Heat Treating Society
Recommend (ASM-HTS), Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), Chemical Coaters
the Facility
Solutions Association International (CCAI), Industrial Heating Equipment Associa-
tion (IHEA), and RadTech International. He holds a BS in mechanical
engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and attended the U.S.
Navy Nuclear Power School and Submarine Officer Training.
p Figure 4. Energy analysis should be an ongoing process.

Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) CEP  November 2018  41