last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing closed by John A. Herbert

by John A. Herbert

Great news from Beijing, mark your diary, on 20 March 2017, RTHK (www.rthk.org.hk) reported that “….the last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing has suspended operations, with the city’s electricity now generated by natural gas” LINK: http://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1320043-20170319.htm Meanwhile here in Asia’s World city, burning coal for power generation continues.

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reflective white roof more effective than lawn for greening existing buildings by John A. Herbert

Commonsense really…..

reflectA reflective white roof is more effective than lawn for greening existing buildings, here is a link to my article published on LinkedIn https://t.co/H8SyyavhHU

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Productivity where are thou

Improving productivity is one of those subjective areas that rarely attracts much attention, studies show that comfort conditions are critical, is it a key part of the goals for a green building, for productively.

Where the people feel their work environment is too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet, productivity drops, and in Hong Kong it is a real issue since most buildings have no winter heating.

A recent survey, by a software company, supports the notion that your workers are dissatisfaction with environmental conditions, and that in turn impacts the productivity of your business.

More detailed than other studies, this survey covers different genders, and different seasons. One finding is stands out immediately the report states 10% of staff are totally dissatisfied.

Whilst this will not be surprising to Building Services engineers who are taught that engineering systems can only satisfy 80% of the occupants in room, It is time to challenge those empirical tests, when we have better options, underfloor distribution, and smart phone computers in our pockets.

However, visit any modern building and you will still find the room sensors in odd positions, often outside the occupied zone, this strategy only provides the general/average room condition (often near the ceiling) not the conditions where the people are working.

sensors-2

Hotel function rooms have sensors located 6m above the occupants, so the HVAC system is working hard to main the conditions for the ceiling zone not the people zone. Also lighting fittings, hand dryers, etc. which act as localized heaters, installed beneath sensors influencing the room conditions.

by John. A. Herbert

unintended consequences

We are all hindered by unintended consequences, Sweden one might argue a global leader for harvesting leftover heat was hamstrung by the law which prevented other suppliers accessing the district heating grid, but that changed when a law was passed last year that allows outside suppliers to deliver heat through the district heating grid. Now the town of Kiruna in northern Sweden can use waste heat from their local industry to cheaply heat homes, a neat solution when the mercury hits -30 Deg C in winter. Details are scare in the Guardian article [1] however using waste heat whether from industry or power generation are cost effective when the distance (which equates to heat lost) between the source and end-user is not great. Less commonly known is that waste heat can be used in the tropics to drive cooling. Low grade waste heat energy, often dumped in rivers or the sea, can be used to change concentration of liquids with salt, e.g. lithium bromide causing cooling, which in turn maybe used to create chilled water for comfort cooling.

Image credit: http://cipco.apogee.net/ces/library/graphic/c00093.gif

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/01/leftover-industrial-heat-to-warm-swedens-chilly-northern-city

Open Source Traffic

I have been a fan of open source, and I found a great little iphone APP that takes two data sets and adds value.  This app shows you where the traffic jams are located in Hong Kong so you can pick the best route to your destination,  get your FREE app at iTunes

click on an image to enlarge………. the red overlay indicates heavy traffic, green overlay indicates normal traffic, it is real time and that simple.

~~~ John A. Herbert, Kelcroft, BEAM Professional

Steam Systems

Steam is valuable energy media used in countless industrial processes, applications include laundries, food factory facilities, laboratories. garment manufacturing, chemical and material processing amongst others. And there is a wealth of energy and cost saving potential based on the steam systems I have inspected in Asia.

energy efficient steam and condensate systems

Sadly many have been poorly designed which is a root cause for future difficulties and wasted energy.  After fixing the system, setting up the right operations is next, to optimise the use of steam and condensate to suit the needs of the processes.

Steam Systems Management by John Herbert

~~~ John A. Herbert, Kelcroft, Consultant

Carbon Intensity

BBC World Website (7 April 2011)

Hardly a day goes by without more news from the Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, unlike past disasters, we have had more news, and media coverage that was inconceivable even ten years ago, and the unfolding tragedy in Japan and at the Fukushima Daiichi has impacted countries far from the leaking radiation.

Many countries including Germany, and China, have halted or postponed existing nuclear programmes for “safety checks” as the media report continues to report the countless attempts by the plant operators TEPCO to try and control the leakage from the wreckage. Japan like Hong Kong has few natural resources (coal, oil or gas) and relies heavily on its nuclear energy programme to provide 30% of its energy needs.

The elephant in the room is those pesky commitments to tackle climate change. China announced on the eve of COP16 (and reiterated at the recent NPCC 12th Five year plan [1] ) that it would reduce it’s Carbon Intensity by 40-45%   Hong Kong closely followed suit and also pledged to lowers its CI, but don’t mistake these Carbon Intensity reductions as energy efficiency improvements.

Carbon Intensity (CI) is defined as the quantity of carbon (CO2) emitted per unit of energy.  Therefore to lower your carbon intensity change from burning a high carbon fossil fuel like coal, to nuclear energy (or renewable energy) reduces the intensity, without any energy efficiency improvement, does that sound more like a Business As Usual approach than a real framework or strategy to tackle dwindling resources?

To achieve this impressive figures would be achieved by switching from power generation using fossil fuel to nuclear powered generation.  At Macau MIECF 2011 (31 March 2011) the Hong Kong Government’s EPD representative Mr Joe Fong [2] indicated that Hong Kong would increase the nuclear energy contribution imported from the mainland from 23% in 2009 to 50% by 2020.

Increasing Nuclear to 50% to lower Hong Kong's Carbon Intensity - Joe W.Y. Fong @ MICEF 2011

So, the obvious question needs to be raised,  if these promised CI reduction targets are to be achieved, and increasing nuclear energy production has been sidelined as a solution can will nations meet these ambitious targets? Is it even possible without increasing the contribution from nuclear powered facilities?  Fortunately, the answer to both questions is affirmative,  energy efficiency improvements can deliver real carbon reductions. It’s not sexy, and unlike building more power plants, it requires hard work on the ground, and political commitment but achievable.

Coupled with these unfolding events in Japan, unrest in the Middle East continues to cause jitters in the markets, dramatically increased crude oil prices adding salt to wound.  It seems that only major news reminds us that oil and other nature resources will not last forever.

Energy efficiency improvements are certain not a panacea for every problem a nation faces today, however developed nations have no excuses, I wonder how long it will take before politicians will truly embrace this opportunity.

— John Herbert, Kelcroft, consultant

1. China’s Carbon Intensity to be reduced by 40-45 % by 2020, based on 2005 baseline http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011npc/2011-03/07/content_12125740.htm

2. http://www.macaomiecf.com/miecf2011/brochure/Urban_Planning/Joe_Fong.pdf

ADB Supporting CCS?

Today’s press release by Asian Development Bank [1] boasts supporting finance for China’s the first coal-fired integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant, so far so good, improved efficiency of generating facilities is necessary, and IGCC offers a great improvement if it maintained over the full life cycle. Further reading is worrying, ADB will also extend the funding for expansion, including Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). However, as I reported here the UN has already removed CCS from it list of approved carbon removal strategies during COP15 in December 2009.

– John Herbert, consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
lowering the cost of doing business in Asia

Productivity in green buildings?

An interesting survey from USA, adds more weight to benefit of building green or does it?  This report “Workers in green buildings take less sick leave” from Green Building Press states that a survey found that workers in green buildings were found to be more productive.

Now, one could argue that is one of the primary aims for building green, the largest cost centre is your employees, therefore even minor productivity improvements equates to a valuable dollar return for employers.

However, two points to consider.

First defining and measuring “productivity” is no simple matter, it’s a very subjective, unlike objective equipment meter readings, the exercise is wholly dependant on fuzzy variables such as the respondents mood and feelings. Certainly surveys are a useful, and providing snapshot of the current situation, but how will the employees, solar panels, or chiller performance look next year?  The next survey might provide a different outcome.

Secondly, the last part of this report is also instructive, it reveals that the respondents said they would not pay more for a green building!  Therefore, we could conclude that they wouldn’t actually trust the productivity findings, and that measuring workplace productivity remains an elusive goal.  Another possible but unlikely conclusion is that green building has finally become main stream, therefore “extra cost” is not an issue.

Unfortunately, the report doesn’t reveal if respondents would have pay more for a building with proven, independently verified, cost, energy, water, and carbon savings.

– John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Funding energy efficiency, PRD, China

The Guangdong municipal Government in South China has created an energy efficiency funding scheme, not unlike CP3 (Cleaner Production Partnership Programme). For energy and environmental improvement projects RMB 300 million (Approx. US$ 44 million) has been allocated for 1:1 cost match basis. Also upto RMB 300,000 (approx US$ 43,000) is available for a specific project proposal.

[PRD – the Pearl River Delta region]

by John A. Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Energy Efficiency is Not Rocket Science

Hong Kong is a great location, indeed I am fortunate to meet a great number of smart, intelligent people that travel through Hong Kong, this week alone I met a Government Minister, a project developer, and financiers from the energy sector.

Its dark down here

I am equally sure that for all the talk about energy efficiency improvement projects, not many people have actually spent as much time in plant rooms as I. Continue reading

What tune does your building play?

Buildings account for the largest proportion of greenhouse emissions in Hong Kong, currently that is sixty three percent (63%) of Hong Kong’s carbon footprint. Whilst initiatives for new buildings are indeed welcome, the influence of the measures are limited to 500-600 new buildings, a very small proportion of the total 40,000 buildings in Hong Kong.

Building Tuning

Improving the existing building stock is critical issue, and one solution is tuning your building. If you owned a vehicle – would you run it year after year without a regular tune-up? of course not, yet buildings are often run for fifty years or more, without tuning.

Behind the glass façade air-conditioning, lighting and other environmental systems of commercial buildings, hotels, shopping malls are burning electricity contributing to the Hong Kong carbon footprint, for efficient operation the engineering systems need to be tuned and optimised and I would argue that it should be conducted annually.

One interesting point I have noticed, often I find firms have an elaborate ISO 14000 EMS (Environmental Management Systems) protocols in place, seemingly unaware that the building energy consumption is causing a larger, and more significant environmental impact!

Building Tuning means optimising the operation of the energy systems, including the chiller plant, pumps, and other systems to identify opportunities to lower the building carbon footprint based on today’s operating environment.

Changing Times

It is one of those facts of life, things change. For a building it is no different except it doesn’t it complain so loudly. Electrical tariffs, usage, building codes, the neighbourhood is a little more crowded, social pressure, these and other influences occur over the operating life of a building and may impact the building energy consumption.

Other influences include new legislation also play a role. For example the relaxation on the use of water and cooling towers for air conditioning systems in 2000, offers opportunities to lower operating costs for hotels and other commercial buildings in Hong Kong.

One approach is the hindsight method – review all every engineering system as if it was a new project – what would you do differently today?

The electricity tariff for commercial buildings in Hong Kong island is significantly higher than Kowloon.  Is this fact taken into consideration when designing a building for Kowloon side or HK island?  In my experience unfortunately not.  The main reason often cited is the structural disconnect between building developers don’t pay the fuel and electricity bills. All the operating costs are paid by the tenant, including any core services such as air conditioning, which is charged in the form of a management fee, charged by square foot not actual usage.

Industrial Tunes

Building Tuning is not limited to just office buildings, factories and manufacturing facilities are not immune to the influence of change.

When you lead others follow

Presently, any tenant of a grade A building in Hong Kong looking to lower their carbon footprint presently has limited opportunities while the primary cost, the cost of air-conditioning, is charged on a square foot basis irrespective of actual consumption. Now that’s true for the majority. However, some innovative developers have seen the light, and have started to provide a metered service, therefore tenants will only pay for the actual usage.

Buildings don’t have any voice to complain, and let you know where the problems are located. A buildings Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is correlated with its annual energy consumption, over its entire life the OPEX (Operating Expense) is significantly higher than its CAPEX (Capital Expenditure), mortgage, cost of finance, etc.  For single owner buildings its a no brainer, the real challenge is multi-owner buildings.

I talked with a client last week regarding his facility, apparently it emerged that a competitor had already completed some work, and now they needed the same work stat. To remain competitive and distinctive in the market place, you either lead or follow.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Lost Energy Efficiency Opportunites

Energy efficient design opportunities lost, John Herbert, Kelcroft, EnergyLAB, Hong Kong,  energy efficiency

Energy efficient design opportunities lost

Often you don’t even need to go inside a building to see opportunities for energy conservation in Hong Kong.  Sadly this opportunity (refer photograph) was many lost years ago at design stage when the lighting control strategy was planned and conceived.

Perhaps it is not clear from the photograph, I took this photo on a glorious sunny morning yet the unneeded halogen incandescent fittings burned bright, serving no useful purpose except burn extra carbon.

And that is the reason why independent third party energy consultants review projects, to highlight these opportunities before the die is cast.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited
helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Carbon Reporting with only one catch.

Really the Hong Kong the government is so far behind the curve in environmental matters I am surprised that it is not a serious concern for business, or are they blind to the risk? Instead of leading Asia, we lag behind the so called developing countries, and it is our economy that will suffer. I think nobody would want to try and predict the outcome from the Copenhagen summit but as a Chinese city we can expect some impact.

I have previously reported that the writing is on the wall for voluntarily carbon reporting.  And that prediction is one step closer to reality since the EPA (USA) has grasped the opportunity of the new 2009 presidency and signalling intentions for compulsory carbon reporting for US factories.

Global Carbon
Since Carbon is a global phenomena it does not require a vivid imagine to see where all this could lead.  Let’s assume for a moment that China continues to claim “developing country” status and does not require compulsory carbon reporting for manufacturing facilities. Importing countries, like the USA could demand it. You might think I am stretching the US EPA’s jurisdiction, perhaps, perhaps not. Consider the considerable power wielded by US trade negotiators, and the political pressures recently demonstrated by the “Buy American Only” stimulus package! It seems clear to me that any factories or business exporting to foreign markets will need to report their local carbon emissions.

Indeed it could be argued that the China is already heading in this direction (China wants importers to cover some emission costs) has already laid the groundwork, with Chinese official’s arguing that the cost of Chinese emissions for products exported to US markets are the responsibility of US market. In the future US importers may be required to bare an extra cost, the carbon cost, for emissions within China, but wait China is not the only exporter to the US.  Surely India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. will have equally valid reasons to claim equal rights?

While US business might be quietly smarting over the idea, extra costs that are never welcomed, another surprise could be around the corner because the distant carbon emitted, and hence its cost, will surely give them further reason for pause.

China Energy Efficiency
If your report card was based on China’s energy efficiency, its one that you’d probably like to hide. The power generation sector is predominately coal based that is well known, lacks modern boilers and the latest controls technology. The risk from the resultant emissions could cause a nasty surprise. How this will play out is unclear, it is really a political trade issue more than a technical Carbon issue, undoubtedly there is an unseen business risk.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

Cleaner Factory Production in China

Kelcroft, cleaner production consultant china, factory, cp3What does Cleaner Production mean? All manufacturing operations require energy for operations and or create air pollution.  An independent audit of the energy consumption and processes in a production facility will identify areas for improvement of the energy efficiency.

If the facility owner implements the corrective measures the operating cost will be lower, and environmental impact of the facility will be reduced, so we have cleaner production.  Shameless plug for my firm Kelcroft is a registered consultant for the Hong Kong Cleaner Production Programme called CP3 (refer image).

Need an example to clarify? Right let’s take a look at the injection moulding process. Like many processes the press creates heat energy therefore to cool the machine moulds cooling water is needed. It circulated through the injection moulding machine, and the heat rejected outside the building typically using a cooling tower.  However, often the cooling towers are out of sight (and out of mind) they are not properly designed and not regularly maintained. Therefore the effectiveness of the whole process deteriorates causing excessive energy consumption.

This deterioration process does not occur overnight!  No, it is a slow steady process.  These apparently insignificant efficiency losses combine lowering the cooling capacity of the cooling tower installation until one day the injection moulding machine malfunctions, and the facility manager then replaces the whole cooling tower. An energy auditor familiar with cooling tower operation could identify the fix before a minor problem becomes a catastrophe.

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

A Systems Approach for Total Cooling Design

I have long advocated for the “Whole Building Design” approach, it has been an uphill struggle without a doubt. The renewed interest in green building has certainly increased awareness of this important skill. Now more help is at hand the Whole Building Design Guide (http://www.wbdg.org). It is published by the National Institute of Building Sciences (USA) so is naturally it is biased towards the USA market, however it will save us acolytes tremendous effort in the longer term.

The whole building design approach is really simple. If designers conceptualise buildings without considering energy costs from day one, that building will surely become an energy hog. The WBD (Whole Building Design) approach means thinking about the whole building impacts simultaneously.  A simple example, if a west facing glazing is shaded, reduce or eliminated, both the initial capital cost, and operating cost for the cooling plant will be reduced.  Since 63% of Hong Kong’s carbon footprint, and 90% of all the electricity generated is attributed to buildings, the opportunities for improvement are obvious.

The hidden beauty is that the principle is equally applicable to other sectors, including process, industry, and even cooling systems. And the latter is one area where the WBDG has overlooked an opportunity to apply whole system design approach for cooling systems.

Too often, building codes and energy codes only specify COP (coefficient of performance) for chiller plant, yet it is one part of the cooling system cycle. In the diagram below, each circle represents a heat exchange process.

kelcroft designConsider all the electrical power consumed for every heat exchange process, and divide by the total cooling capacity gives us a common metric kilowatts per ton (Kw/Ton) defining the whole cooling system efficiency.

The whole system includes all the electrical power used by:

  1. motors driving fans in the AHU (Air Handling Units) and other air moving equipment
  2. motors driving the chilled water pumps
  3. motors powering the chiller compressor
  4. motors driving the condenser water pumps
  5. motors driving fans in the cooling tower

With the focus elsewhere many cooling systems operate inefficiency in a range between 1.0-1.2 Kw/TR, whereas an efficient system would operate nearer 0.6-0.70 Kw/TR.

energyLAB limited Hong Kong

The question is where is your system operating?  If your cooling system is operating in the red, the good news is you have opportunities for improvement.

John A. Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost of doing business in Asia

Wasting energy with incandescent lighting

Incandescent lamps wasting energy

Financing Energy Efficiency is EPC the answer?

While everyone seems to be pointing to the financial crisis I can see more opportunities to use creative financing techniques, like the Energy Performance Contract model to finance energy efficiency improvement projects.

An Energy Performance Contract (EPC) is a tried and tested method to fund capital expenditure for an energy efficiency improvement project from the future cost savings. First, let me say this is not a new idea, energy performance contracting has been around for decades, and today is probably the best option around where budgets are tight. Typically an EPC covers the entire project cost, including all the new equipment, cost of finance, measurement and verification, and maintenance all funded from the energy savings.

I was asked today is an EPC only suitable for replacing old and ageing equipment? Typically my answer would be yes, that is a good application because large energy efficiency improvements equate to significantly lower operating expenses.  However, here in Hong Kong, there is also the option for healthy air cooled chillers can be replaced today with water-cooled chillers under an EPC so facility owners can immediately enjoy the benefit of lower operating costs.

Energy efficiency improvements achieve cost reductions by improving facilities, for example a more efficient air conditioning system, but also create soft benefits too including lower maintenance costs and improved comfort for the building occupants. Facility owners have the new equipment installed so the risk to the owner is minimal, yet there is an overwhelming inertia for EPC’s to traction in this part of the world. The objections to be honest are not clearly defined.

Also an often overlooked benefit is the value gained by combining multiple technologies and payback periods, to achieve an overall package which will meet the project cash flow projections. EPC Projects are typically 3-5 years in length, although government bodies have been known to enter into lengthy contracts.

Nowadays, with the software and analysis tools available, EPC’s often include more complex systems such as central plant distribution loop modifications. These more complex upgrades could include plate and frame heat exchangers, variable frequency pumping, and controls.  Some contracts even include other sectors, such as water, grey water, and waste treatment.

There are seven model Energy Performance Contracts types, and clearly these will continue to evolve. In the current economic climate they might even reach critical mass.

John Herbert
Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost and impact of doing business in Asia

Saving Energy in Steam Systems

Opportunities to lower operating costs for Steam systems using energy efficiency improvements – there are plenty opportunities to improve industrial energy efficiency for steam systems in China, and elsewhere in Asia. And some projects may also qualify to earn extra income from a carbon credit (officially known as CER – Certified Emission Reduction) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

I see the potential for the wider application  of CDM AM0017, which is the official CDM methodology for calculating the Steam system efficiency improvements by replacing steam traps and returning condensate.

System Systems
Steam is still a marvellous high density medium for transporting heat energy, and an essential part of industrial process needs, however a high pressure fluid, at temperatures up to 500 Deg C needs to be respected.  Twenty years ago I cut my teeth on steam projects in the United Kingdom, a typical hospital project demonstrates the utility of steam, where it is used for autoclaves, sterilising, catering, cleaning, domestic hot water, humidification, and also heating systems.

A steam system, consists of four main elements:

  1. Steam Generation
  2. Steam Distribution
  3. Steam Traps
  4. Condensate Return

energy efficient steam and condensate systems

Energy Audit Opportunities
An energy audit should examine the whole steam system, from generation through to point of use to identify wasted energy, and identify any cost effective improvements. You’ll notice immediately that unlike other piped systems, the steam flow and condensate return have to be handled separately.

Steam Generation
Steam generation means creating steam using fuel typically coal, oil, or gas, although electricity is sometimes used also.  Water is heated from atmospheric pressure to the designed steam pressure for use in the facility.  Operating boilers at maximum efficiently, including monitoring air flow, improved firing controls optimise the use of fuel and can yield good results. Power stations often use coal fired boilers, and naturally have a low thermal efficiency thirty percent is common, so there are opportunities to utilise that wasted heat energy for an local industrial process.  Opportunities for energy savings would include recovering any waste heat energy for example from flue gases, or blowdown to pre-heat the any fresh (raw) water. For large industrial plants it could be possible to use higher pressure steam to drive electricity generating turbine, and use that lower pressure exhaust for process purposes.

Steam Distribution
Steam distribution is the transfer of your steam now under high pressure from the boiler to the point of use with minimising losses, Steam is not mechanically pumped, its movement driven from the inherent pressure difference, high to low pressure.

It is important that the steam distribution system does not reduce or lower the quality (dryness) of the steam because that lowers the heat energy. Unlike other piped systems the steam can travel at high velocity, upto 30m/sec, and the self drainage of the steam pipework is critical to effectively deliver dry steam, and is air vented for start up conditions.

Piping configurations that dip under obstacles such as other services and beams would create a natural low point where condensate will accumulate impacting the steam quality, and provide a source for damage by water hammer. Particular care is required for the configuration of expansion joints to ensure they are self draining.

Opportunities for energy efficiency improvements in the steam distribution system include minimising heat losses, reducing piping routes, where possible design out low points, and economic insulation.

Steam Trapping

Although Steam trapping could be considered as part of Steam Distribution, or Condensate Return, the problems are so common and distinct Steam trapping deserves a separate section.

The steam trap is the gateway between the process outlet and the condensate piping system, very often the traps leak due to internal blockage.  Most steam traps have a small orifice that can easily become blocked by debris and fail in the open position. A failed steam trap wastes energy due to causes increased heat-up time, and lengthened the product cycle times because the potential latent energy in steam passes straight though the process and is lost in to the condensate system.

Condensate

Bad design or maintenance panic (just to get production running again) causes another common problem, the wrong type of steam trap, and facility operators are unaware that the wrong type of trap is wasting energy. In some circumstance, poor management can cause injury to operators.

Traditionally,  condensate steams were fitted with a special type of fitting known as a sight glass so operators had the opportunity to visually check that water, and not steam, was flowing in to the condensate line.

However, the sight glass had many disadvantages.  Over time the “glass” viewing port become obscured and unusable. Also some sight glasses were installed in such a location that the operators couldn’t physically access the sight glass to check it.  To overcome these shortfalls a different type of steam trap monitor was invented to provide remote monitoring of condensate or steam flow, for example, the Spira-Tech manufactured by Spriax Sarco, other companies provide similar systems.  This type of trap monitoring system immediately alerts the facility operator that they have a faulty trap, and importantly its exact location.

Condensate Return
After the steam has been used in the facility process to heat a product, what remains is the Condensate (hot water). It must be noted that still many industrial steam plants don’t have any condensate return system! Why is that a problem? because it millions of litres of hot water are wasted, in additional “cold” raw water needs to be purchased to replace it.

Where uncontaminated condensate can be captured, it can be sent through insulated piping back to to the boiler for reuse. In my experience, next comes the most commonly asked question “What percentage of condensate should be returned to the steam boiler plant?” In a perfect world 100%, yes, all the condensate should be returned to the boiler, since the condensate contains up to 20-30% of the heat energy used to create the steam, returning it to the boiler saves both fuel and raw water.

However, there are no targets written in stone, 100% is an ideal goal but it is simply not practical in the field, any system that returns less than 70%-80% condensate warrants investigation.  It is worth noting that condensate flow varies, during start-up approximately twice the flow rate of normal operating conditions is experienced so condensate handling must account for higher loads at start-up. Opportunities for energy efficiency improvements include increasing the quantity of condensate returned to the boiler, eliminating leakage, and economic thermal insulation for the condensate piping.

Carbon Credits
Energy efficiency improvements are driven by the economic imperative, lower facility operating costs. In addition to the lower costs, saving fuel also reduces the demand for finite fuel resources such as oil and gas.  Another potential income stream from energy efficiency improvement projects in developing countries is provided by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  AM0017 is the CDM methodology for calculating the Steam System efficiency improvements from replacing steam traps and returning condensate. That means the saved energy can be translated into a carbon credit which has a real monetary value, and can be sold on the carbon market.

by John A. Herbert, Consultant

Current CO2 level in the Earth’s atmosphere

Energy Efficiency is by far the fastest, most benign to the environment, and cost effective weapon we have to tackle climate change – and time is running out for voluntary action.

Governments across the planet are finally realising that it is very much harder to the promised reach targets, although most were only modest goals and the next climate summit will be interesting.

Current chart and data for atmospheric CO2

It is reported here that within the US stimulus package approx. 3% has been allocated for energy efficiency projects-that is significant.  However, no single country, government, state, business, or individual can solve this problem alone, it is the big daddy of all global issues, requiring complete international cooperation.

We have already exceeded the danger threshold @ 350ppm, and CO2 is still increasing faster than ever before. At a local level, many business are preoccupied with the financial crisis, will likely overlook the quietly accumulating business risk (see the graph) until there weighty carbon tax demand note hits their mailbox.  By then it will be too late. Those who were are not already prepared will likely suffer the wrath of stakeholders and investors for ignoring the writing on the wall.

Still I remain optimistic, since there are many businesses are still unaware of the zero cost, low impact opportunities to embrace Energy Efficiency Improvements (EEI) using a performance contract, can be quickly implemented without upfront capital cost.