True sustainability – it’s the ultimate goal.
We are all looking and listening out for the right opportunities to make meaningful change towards true sustainability. There’s so much information out there about sustainable solutions and carbon reduction, but it can be hard to be confident about what options will be genuinely impactful – working towards the net zero goal – and not just superficially enhanced or manipulated data.
This is the challenge faced across industrial manufacturing worldwide – need for products is continually growing, production still needs to expand, and delivery of essential services must continue – but all while reducing undesirable emissions output.
Our advice has for a long time and continues to be rooted in the importance of energy recovery and system efficiency. It may seem simple, but still these areas continue to be often overlooked. The huge benefit delivered by focusing on efficiency is that not only does it reduce energy waste – resulting in reduced emissions, it also actually boosts performance leading to improved thermal energy delivery and productivity. So, for industrial steam users it is plainly very worthwhile to take any available action to improve the efficiency and performance of the steam system, from generation, through distribution to point of use.
What does this mean and where to start? A good example of this type of action in a steam system is to put in place equipment that delivers continuous monitoring of the steam trap population. It is well understood by most steam users that steam trap population management is essential, and the more steam traps you have the more energy you can save (or waste if not properly looked after).
Continuous monitoring of steam traps through wired or wireless networks allows constant performance data which is interrogated for deeper understanding, bringing benefits such as:
Additionally, the sustainability rewards are broader than the performance and cost related benefits listed above.
Steam traps play an essential energy conservation role in the steam system. Underperforming or failed steam traps can result in the loss of steam and energy, leading to increased fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Continuous monitoring of steam traps can help detect and repair any that are failed or malfunctioning, leading to significant energy savings and reduced carbon emissions.
They also play a crucial role in preventing water waste. Inefficient steam traps can result in the loss of valuable water resources, which can be particularly concerning in regions that experience water scarcity. Continuous monitoring of steam traps can help with water conservation and reducing water bills.
Another area to consider is the effect of properly functioning traps on the wider steam system and equipment. Efficient steam traps can help prevent equipment damage and to extend equipment life. This leads to reduced maintenance costs, fewer replacement needs, and less material waste.
In short, continuous monitoring and close management of steam traps through enabled equipment and visibility of performance ensures a more efficient, safer and more sustainable system.
This whole approach can be applied not just to steam trap population management, but throughout the steam and condensate loop, and indeed around all associated equipment. This could include areas like boilerhouse controls, steam distribution equipment and condensate return systems. This will prevent thermal energy from being wasted – from being lost, will ensure efficiency, and will avoid wider associated waste.
The IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) has changed the way we manage and maintain thermal energy equipment and systems, but it still has the potential to transform further. Employment of advanced technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data analytics will allow even more enhanced visibility and control to ensure unnecessary waste simply does not happen.
The future of sustainable thermal systems will ensure users are able to take action before events occur – the technology will direct them to do so. Imagine being able to take predictive maintenance action by having access to a continual data stream with intelligent monitoring systems that forecast issues before they happen and indicate what adjustments are needed.
What if that data could be accessed and systems controlled remotely – on your tablet or phone? In fact this capability already exists, and with more advanced technology emerging that will allow users to understand and report on the quantified impact of their actions, for example the amount of Co2 reduced or fuel saved.
It is this use of technology and digital enablement of steam systems that will be the key to unlocking more significant and more impactful sustainability achievements. This will allow industry to continue to benefit from the unrivalled thermodynamic properties that set steam apart from other thermal energy systems, with confidence that they are on the path to true sustainability.
We're here to help you find the right solutions for your industry