Even with a growing recession, the chemical industry is continuing to focus on energy management and efficiency, according to ChemicalProcessing.com. A recent survey by AspenTech of Burlington, Massachusetts finds that feedstock and energy costs make up about 70 percent of a chemical company’s process costs, so savings in this department make a big impact. They say that companies in this industry can improve energy consumption in three ways: real-time optimization, utilities, and design.
Brendan Sheehan of Honeywell Process Solution agrees. “Although feedstock is cheaper now, we are not seeing a falloff in interest in improving energy efficiency. This is because margins are very tight at chemical plants and the big fall in demand means that people are not pushing throughput as hard. Bear in mind that the cost of natural gas accounts for more than 80% of the operating cost of an ammonia plant. So anything you can do to reduce energy use is important,” he says.
In addition, changing carbon emissions laws around the world have many chemical plants worried about the competitiveness of the chemical industries, since the high costs of certificate auctions can’t be passed on to consumers. Harald Schwager of BASF in Germany notes that these changes in EU policies could just cause production to move overseas to avoid paying for certificates, since there is no international pricing system.
One thing that is clear is that research is needed to focus on more efficient energy processes in the chemical industry, and on this issue, both industry professionals and the government agree.