The rising cost of energy cannot be news to anyone with a pulse. The price of nearly every consumer good, from groceries to airline tickets, has been affected by rising energy costs. The price of the actual goods and services may not have increased, but if a manufacturer is able to maintain the same price point, he has done so by reducing his costs to offset the price of energy, or he is selling at a loss. It is simple economics -- supply and demand.

Many -- consumers and businesses alike -- pay lip service to reducing energy consumption, but it's not so clear how many take tangible, permanent steps toward that goal. I was alternately dismayed and heartened to read Dick Bennett's “Energy Notes” this month as he illustrates that point only too clearly. Dick cautions, “We have to treat efficient energy use with the same urgency as meeting delivery schedules, equip ourselves to keep our process ovens and furnaces in top working order, and remove impediments to swift implementation of conservation (read: waste reduction) efforts.” Turn to page 18 for more.

In addition to the steps Dick recommends, what can you do? Perhaps you can squeeze more out of each BTU by reusing and repurposing waste heat, for example. “Combined Heat and Power Systems for Process Heating” by Jason N. Richards, senior project engineer at NiSource Energy Technologies, Merrillville, Ind., explains CHP systems, which simultaneously generate heat and electrical energy at or near the point of consumption. Combined heat and power systems can supply all or just a fraction of a processor's total thermal and electrical requirements. Recovered heat from these systems can be used for lower temperature heating processes such as convective drying and curing, hot water and thermal fluid heating, and combustion air preheating. While CHP is not the answer for all industrial process heating applications, it bears consideration for some.

Inefficiently operating equipment also can lead to unnecessary energy consumption. Improperly operating bearings and pumps, for example, can threaten production with the specter of unplanned downtime as well. One way to monitor process equipment is through regular temperature surveys, and one tool used to do those surveys is the infrared thermometer. “See the Light” by Robert Winkler, a technical writer based in Stamford, Conn., chronicles the development of noncontact temperature measurement tools. Learn more about these flexible instruments beginning on page 23.

Also in this issue, “Glass-Mat Emissions Abatement,” a case history from Pro-Environmental Inc., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., explains how a five-canister modular oxidizer system was used to tackle high VOC emissions from a gas-mat curing line.

“Compact Package Creates Efficiencies,” a case history from St. Louis-based Watlow, explains how an integrated control loop package offers one pharmaceutical manufacturer benefits such as multiple program ramp-and-soak capabilities.

Finally, “Chiller Solves Problems for Plastics Firm,” a case history from Niles, Ill.-based Thermal Care, explains how the installation of two chillers reduced downtime and energy consumption at a California manufacturer of custom injection-molded plastics.

Linda Becker
Associate Publisher and Editor