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Understanding Industrial Energy Use

Posted Oct 25th, 2017

Understanding Industrial Energy Use TERESA MADALENO

The industrial sector uses a huge amount of energy. While energy efficiency is a big topic of discussion in all business sectors, energy experts say before you can go about finding ways to save money on that energy bill, you need a complete understanding of your current energy use.

So how does the industrial sector use energy? The types of fuel and how much fuel is used within an industry, depends on the production practices, weather fluctuations, changes in production materials, and a long list of other variables. In basic terms, industry uses energy for three main areas of operation: processes, support equipment, and the facilities themselves. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, in the United States, factories, steel mills, refineries and other industrial plants use nearly one third of energy used to power the entire country. In Canada, the industrial sector uses almost half of the country’s power. 

Here’s a brief breakdown of how energy is used in the industrial sector:

• Process heating requires fuel to operate furnaces and ovens to smelt and cure raw materials.
• Chemical reactions, distillation, as well as processes to produce chemical compounds, plastic, and steel.
• Motor-driven equipment, including pumps, air compressors, fans, and mixers.
• Equipment handling that moves everything from raw materials to a finished product.
• Facilities themselves require heating, ventilating, air conditioning, lighting, and appliances.

In many cases, operations managers simply don’t know where to start in terms of improving energy efficiency, even if they are aware of exactly how much energy every process is using. Organizations like the Alliance to Save Energy and the Ontario Sustainable Communities in Action agree that its a lot for manufacturers to think about when they are running busy production lines, but they insist that energy assessment needs to take place. The Alliance to Save Energy considers professional energy assessment the “most effective step” industrial businesses can take. While this may sound costly, the Alliance points out that in many cases this does not mean you have to purchase a slew of expensive new equipment. Improvements can be significant when people make changes in how they manage energy.

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