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Investment in energy saving cooling is paying off

Published: 6 July 2012 - Joe Bush

Fluoropolymer processors and global supplier of PTFE and polymer related components, Fluorocarbon, has invested in energy efficient inverters and a free cooling system from IsoCool to help combat the steep rise in on-site electricity costs - which have doubled in just two years

As a result of the installation the cooling costs are on track to reduce by 67%. This gives the project, which is funded with a loan from the Carbon Trust and Siemens Financial Services under the Energy Efficiency Financing Scheme, a payback schedule of less than two years.

Fluorocarbon’s Hertford factory is one of the largest, with on-site processes including high performance coatings, engineering plastics, moulding and screw extrusion. Consequently, the cooling system is integral, supporting more than 70% of plant equipment within the polymer factory.

Historically the cooling system consisted of a single water chiller with a 120kW cooling capacity, and cost just over £20,000 a year to run. But with electricity prices rising, Fluorocarbon took action, as Shaun Grundon, health, safety and environmental officer explained, “A few years ago, the cost of electricity on the site doubled from 7p to 15p per KWh. We already had plans to improve energy efficiency, so we looked at the site as a whole and applied for the Carbon Trust/Siemens loan to cover four projects, of which the cooling system is the biggest. As we’d had such great results from IsoCool on previous projects, we approached them to help. They’re also an approved Carbon Trust supplier, which was ideal.”

To significantly reduce the energy consumption of the process cooling system, IsoCool retro-fitted a separate RFC air blast cooler to the chiller. This provides the cooling source during the times of the year when the ambient will allow partial and up to 100% direct air cooling, thus offloading the compressors and the inherent high operating costs.

According to Grundon, the benefits of an air blast cooler were clear, “An investigation into the weather conditions in Hertford showed that we could save a lot of money with free cooling. Our cooling system has an outlet temperature of 18oC, and the ambient temperature in this area is below that for about 8 months of the year,” he said.

IsoCool also identified that further energy savings could be achieved by installing inverters to the process pumps. Unlike standard process pumps, which work at either full capacity or are switched off in stages, inverters alter the speed of the pumps in direct response to demand. They also limit peaks in electrical usage. This keeps energy consumption and operating costs to a minimum.

Grundon continued, “Our water chillers used to be on 24/7, 52 weeks of the year - they never shut down. Now, thanks to the free cooler, the main chiller only comes on two to three months a year. The energy savings are massive.

“Our process pumps were a similar story - one of them was running all the time and we had a back-up pump on standby. The inverters mean that we’re saving 25p an hour on the pump alone,”

Based on the chilled water system running at 60% load factor, IsoCool calculated that the energy efficient upgrades would lower the running costs of the cooling system to approximately £6,800 - just a third of previous total. Factoring in the fees of the Energy Efficiency Financing Scheme, this gives the solution a payback of less than two years.

“We’ve been monitoring the energy consumption of our new system closely, and so far we’re right on track to achieving the savings which IsoCool predicted in their cost analysis. It’s basically a self financing project - once the loan is paid back, we’ll be saving in excess of £13,000 every year,” said Grundon.

“IsoCool did an excellent job with the installation. Because we run a 24/7 production, we can’t afford for the chillers to be shut down. IsoCool worked it so that there was no loss of production. Their site survey was extremely thorough too, and our savings forecast is spot on.”

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