Ahead of the game

With gas prices soaring and a raft of legislation on the way, efficiency-boosting technologies have never been so popular.Jitendra Patel reports on a new product that offers a 5% saving

E DF Energy recently announced that gas wholesale prices have risen 80% in a year and have tripled since 2003. British Gas hiked energy prices by 25% in February, and their rivals have swiftly followed suit.

The huge rise in energy prices alone is enough to make large manufacturers put measures in place to cut energy costs, but there is also a raft of legislation and policy that restricts emissions and demands the meeting of government targets. In particular, the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD), due for implementation in 2008 will have a substantial impact on the amount of emissions and therefore energy that industry uses.

Revised in 2001, the LCPD aims to reduce acidification, ground-level ozone and particles throughout Europe by controlling emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and dust (particular matter (PM)) from large (thermal output of greater than 50MW) combustion plants. These are defined by Defra as "an individual generating unit at a multi-unit power plant, but where two or more plants at any multi-unit power station discharge their waste gases through a common stack, plants will be treated as single unit (or combustion plant) for LCPD purposes".

New combustion plants (those opened since 1987) are required to meet emission limit values (ELV) given in the LCPD. For existing plants (those in operation before 1987) member states can choose to meet obligations by complying with ELVs or operating within a National Emissions Reduction Plan (NERP). This plan is being set by looking at an annual national level of emissions calculated by applying the ELV approach on the basis of average actual operating hours, fuel used and thermal input over the five years between 1995 and 2000.

A cap-and-trade trading scheme is being developed by the Environment Agency as a possible aid to meeting the requirements of the LCPD and NERP. But the most effective, hassle-free and cost-efficient way of meeting obligations lies in reducing emissions through changes in process.

New technologies to enhance energy efficiency are constantly being developed as manufacturers see a huge market opportunity. One such UK-based company, Birmingham-based Maxsys, has developed the Fuel+ energy saving solution, which comes with a price promise: 5% energy savings or your money back.

Fuel+ operates by applying a precisely calibrated magnetic field to the fuel supplied to the burners. This pre-treatment process enhances combustion, producing a cleaner burn and reduced emissions. Designed for installation into vertical or horizontal pipes, there are no moving parts and no electrical supply is required.

Progressive synthetic fibre manufacturer Toray Textiles Europe installed the Fuel+ system as part of its strategic commitment to cut unit energy consumption by 2% per annum - and achieved an impressive 5% saving as a result.

Toray's Mansfield site has three 15,900kg, gas fired, steam-raising boilers which act as duty, standby (for peak demand) and dry storage, and are rotated every 12 months. Fuel+ was installed on one of the boilers in December 2004. Independent assessor ABB was selected to carry out an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Fuel+ system.

Mike Fisher, Toray's engineering general manager, says: "We found that Fuel+ offered maximum return when demand was high, which is something that suits our operations at Mansfield.

"Overall it has provided us with a significant improvement in energy use," he says. "Another advantage of Fuel+ is that it helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted," says Fisher. "During a 20-day period, 12,400m3 less gas was consumed than would have been expected if the Fuel+ had not been installed."

Foreseeing and anticipating measures which will be enforced in 2008 when the LCPD is implemented will save manufacturers time and spread costs over longer periods. Maxsys says that with a system such as Fuel+, initial outlay is quickly recouped by energy savings, so cost is not a long-term issue.

Although some experts predict a positive future for gas supply - with many believing the shortage is a temporary problem that will be solved once supplies from Europe are more forthcoming - the need to cut emissions is not going away. It makes economical sense for industry to act now, before new policy becomes legally enforceable.

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