Agrium is a leading global producer of agricultural nutrients and industrial products based on nitrogen, phosphate and potash. This fertilizer giant used process integration to evaluate the energy efficiency of its Redwater, Alberta, plant.
Process integration is one of the most advanced energy analysis techniques used today. This comprehensive and systematic analysis method is particularly well suited to improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in large plants with complex energy systems. This structured approach enabled Agrium to have a thorough and precise understanding of which aspects needed to be improved in order to save energy at its Redwater plant.
Getting Off on the Right Foot
The Redwater plant opened in 1969, and the study confirmed that the plant had done a good job at properly managing its energy efficiency through the several expansion phases that took place over the years. This finding sends a very important message to industry: facilities must indeed be built properly the first time around (i.e. using an integrated approach to energy management).
Despite the plant’s enviable energy performance, the process integration study nonetheless identified several opportunities for improvement, however modest as they were considering the plant’s total energy consumption. If overall study recommendations are proven cost-effective, they could lead to energy efficiency savings of 3 to 5%. Such a rather limited potential only confirms Agrium’s enviable energy efficiency record, but savings could still represent several million dollars in energy gains.
In terms of short-term recommendations, the study brought to light opportunities to reduce reject steam volumes using an advanced measuring and monitoring system for steam production and distribution systems. The study also confirmed the importance of projects that had already been identified by Agrium as possible sources of electricity or fuel savings, such as the detailed analysis of the potential offered by installing variable frequency drives on certain engines. Another short-term objective consists in more efficiently managing the plant’s electrical systems.
In the longer term, Agrium could increase the flexibility of its steam system. Thus, in the event of excess steam forming while boilers are operating at minimum fire settings, the steam could either be used to generate electricity or in other processes.
The Agrium study lasted 6 months and was conducted by Veritech Inc., one of only a few North American firms specializing in process integration, with financial assistance provided by Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE).
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