It’s easy to find opportunities to save energy in locations that are monitored regularly and measured correctly. However, it is more difficult in locations that are not monitored at all or that are measured incorrectly, however close they may be.
I can remember a winter morning at the Jämsänkoski paper mill where I was working as a production director. It was -25°C outside and the downstairs door of the mill had been accidentally left open after a truck had driven off. The entire ground floor was freezing cold. A huge amount of steam heat had been wasted. I closed the door. A simple act with a big impact. We can all make a greater impact by staying alert and ready to act.
Attention to water consumption
In addition to consuming electricity, the paper industry uses a lot of water. In Finland, water is not a scarce natural resource. Nevertheless, we could continue to reduce our water consumption. One example in paper production is related to material processing. Water used for these processes is mainly taken in through several showers. But are all these washing showers necessary? And can the treated water extracted from the process be reused more often? I think that many mills could be more active in recycling water.
It is also clear that heating each litre of water consumes energy. Water enters the processes at an average temperature of 7°C and exits at a temperature of 35°C. In other words, the less water we have to heat, the better. Each litre we do not heat brings cost savings.
We have been systematically developing energy-saving opportunities. At the turn of the decade, we started an extensive energy-saving campaign. The results were impressive: In Finland, we achieved a 5% saving in power and heat consumption within a couple of years.
We found equipment in the mills’ processes, that was switched on for no reason. There was unnecessary pumping, heating and cooling going on. Empty pulpers were running, lights were left on and air conditioning was not adjusted properly.
The best experts are often near
There’s still further room for improvement. Let’s take the towers at the mill site as an example. They are used for storing different kinds of pulp and raw material. They need to be stirred for the content to remain consistent. But does this need to be done continuously? Could this be done on a part-time basis and as a scheduled task? Everyone working near the towers could give this some thought. The best experts are always near, doing their job. When you have permission to take action, you will see progress.
We must all be constantly on the lookout for energy-saving opportunities – and there will be plenty of them. For example, we can use smart sensors to measure the levels in the towers and the consistencies at different heights. If the tower is full and the consistencies vary, the tower needs to be stirred actively. If it is not full or if the consistencies are similar, it needs less stirring.
Be constantly alert
Savings are also achieved by using equipment during less expensive hours instead of peak times. In Finland, the price of electricity varies greatly at different times of the day. At night, the price can be as low as one sixth of the daytime price. Who wouldn’t want to buy a car at night if you got it for one sixth of the price?
If industries even out their electricity consumption, this will have an effect on the entire electrical grid and help control electricity transfer fees. In the processing industry, it is generally possible to optimise many tasks through scheduling. Some processes can be increasingly run during the night, and the necessary ones can be maintained during the day.
The future—with renewable energies and smart technical solutions at the forefront—will bring unprecedented reforms to energy consumption. We all need to keep up with this progress.
Common sense and determination are rewarded when it comes to saving energy. As we have seen in our operations, paying attention and focusing on a specific issue brings results. Have you been alert today? Did you see equipment that was left on unnecessarily?