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The Secret to Solving the Energy Puzzle - Innovation
September 7, 2011 | By JOHN WARDZEL
This is the fourth in a series of posts from Celanese on linking sustainability to your business operations. To read Celanese Senior VP Jim Alder's take on sustainability and budgeting, click here, energy efficiency and innovation, click here, and general manager of Ticona Michael Stubblefield’s views on developing sustainable products, click here.
Everywhere we turn, the skyrocketing price of gasoline is a topic of conversation. Sure, individuals can conserve, but it will take positive actions from government officials and real innovation from the private sector to make a noticeable difference in energy demand and supply – especially for fuels.
The chemical sector consumed more than 20% (3,195 trillion BTUs) of all the fuel consumed by the U.S. manufacturing industry according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey 2002 and 2006. While consumption is trending down, we can do better.
As chemical companies, there are two things we can do to help. First is to conserve in our daily operations and in the way we manufacture our products. Second is to develop new products with the potential to increase energy efficiency or decrease energy demand. These are customer-focused innovations with marketable use and positive impact on your company’s bottom line. Both take great discipline and innovation, and both can make a measurable difference in energy supply and demand. For Celanese, we see direct benefits for automakers as they replace metal components with our engineered polymer products produced by our Ticona business that reduce weight on cars, gas consumption and tailpipe emissions.
Stringent climate regulations worldwide are constantly at our heels, but we should think ahead. Chemical companies can improve processes and use new technologies to improve energy consumption and conservation. As a part of an overall effort to reduce our carbon footprint, about 10 years ago, Celanese set a goal to reduce our energy index 20% by 2005. We exceeded that goal and set and exceeded another – thereby reducing our overall energy index 41% by 2010. This amount equals the annual power consumption of more than 400,000 homes.
Dedicating teams across the enterprise to research and develop innovative solutions and products can have the most significant impact. New and innovative process technology is the secret behind our aggressive operational energy reductions. We use our AOPlus™ and VAntage Plus™ technologies in our plants to optimize acetic acid or vinyl acetate production.
Encouraging innovation at the site level can also make a difference. For example, between 2006 and 2009, technical teams at our Singapore; Tarragona, Spain; and Clear Lake, Texas facilities executed a global implementation of a heat recovery project in vinyl acetate where the efforts resulted in a reduction of approximately 700,000 MMBTU per year.
Celanese also recently announced what we believe is game-changing and innovative technology, known as Celanese TCX™. It’s a new process developed by our R&D team in Clear Lake, Texas to produce hydrocarbon-based ethanol for industrial and possibly fuel use using whatever hydrocarbons are available and economically viable in the region such as natural gas or coal instead of corn or sugar. This process has significant cost advantages over conventional ethanol production methods and reduces an economy’s dependence on foreign oil.
We at Celanese want the entire industry to push for more innovation in both what we produce to meet the world’s customers’ needs and how we manufacture those products. In spite of today’s global economic challenges, the chemical industry can make a difference.
John Wardzel is Senior Vice President of Operations at Celanese. For more information, visit www.celanese.com.
To find out more about energy management strategies Chemical Week readers are invited to attend a free-to-view webcast hosted by Chemical Week and featuring speakers from DuPont and CSC on September 28, 2011, at 10am ET/3pm BST/ 4pm CET. The webcast, entitled 'Can Energy Management Deliver Real Cost Savings?' will run for one hour and include two presentations and a Q&A session. The event is focused on how chemical companies can save money through the implementation of a sustainable energy management system.