By conducting energy assessments of their steam systems, chemical plants can uncover important opportunities to improve energy efficiency, leading to energy savings, lower emissions and higher productivity.

At some chemical plants, steam systems account for the most end-use energy consumption. By conducting energy assessments of their steam systems, chemical plants can uncover important opportunities to improve energy efficiency, leading to significant energy savings, lower emissions and higher productivity.

A few years ago, Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical’s St. Charles operations management team at its petrochemical plant in Hahnville, La., took on the task of uncovering natural gas savings in its plant's steam system. The plant undertook a Save Energy Now energy assessment, which was performed by the U.S. Department of Energy, and found several ways to increase steam-system efficiency.

Plant personnel improved their steam-trap program and enhanced their ongoing leak-repair campaign. The combined annual energy and cost savings that resulted from just the two efficiency measures totaled 272,000 MMBTU and $1.9 million. With project costs of approximately $225,000, the simple payback was around six weeks. Although Dow had been aware that the efficiency of these systems could be improved, the assessment quantified the potential energy savings in a manner that made it more compelling to implement the improvements.

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