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Condition monitoring: the key to industrial energy efficiency

Around 45% of the energy used worldwide is used by electric motors. That’s a whole lot of electricity. It’s also why industrial energy efficiency has become such a hot topic. Reduced energy usage holds the key to improved environmental impact and lower operating costs.

Yet energy efficiency initiatives have historically been low on the priority list, often because:

  • it’s hard to identify which processes are the most inefficient, and therefore need the most attention.
  • the short-term costs are high (installing inefficiency detection software, rightsizing motors, etc.).
  • high levels of production take priority, regardless of cost.

New advances in condition monitoring are making industrial energy efficiency improvements far more achievable. SAM4 monitors the health of a motor by measuring current and voltage, which by extension means that SAM4 can also measure and detect inefficient processes. Traditional conditional monitoring techniques rely on vibration analysis to monitor the health of motors, and so are unable to offer the same efficiency improvement features.

Production managers are now turning to condition monitoring driven by current and voltage measurement to identify inefficiencies in industrial processes, so that maintenance teams can act quickly to rectify the inefficiency.

Why increased industrial energy efficiency is so important

Improved environmental impact
It goes without saying that the most important objective when improving industrial energy efficiency is to reduce environmental impact.

As important as it is, the conversation to justify spending money on this can be a difficult one, especially when there are more short-term pressing issues, and multiple stakeholders begging for budget.

Reduced costs
Perhaps a more effective justification when there are multiple budgetary mouths to feed is that investment in improved energy efficiency can result in lower operating costs in the long run. This is especially the case as energy gradually becomes more expensive.

Improved brand image
This may seem like a self-serving reason to invest in improving industrial energy efficiency, but it is valid nonetheless. Reduced energy consumption is a hot topic, and a demonstrated effort to reduce energy use could be a way to stand out, encouraging consumers or businesses to engage with you rather than a competitor.

How condition monitoring can help improve industrial energy efficiency

As noted above, electric motors consume a huge amount of electricity worldwide, and so even a few, small concentrated efforts can make a difference. Below are a few ways that condition monitoring can help reduce energy consumption in industrial environments.

Proper maintenance
According to research, properly maintained motors consume up to 15% less energy. SAM4 can be used to detect developing faults (which cause motors to run less efficiently), so they can be fixed as soon as conveniently possible.

Re-engineering inefficient processes
Consider a scenario with two very large drainage pumps. They operate at 80% of capacity in the autumn and winter, as the most rain falls in those seasons. During spring and summer, they both run at 40%.

A relatively quick way to reduce energy waste would be to operate one pump at 80% in the spring and summer instead of two at 40%.

Although this might be a simple example, the point stands. By combining domain knowledge, process knowledge, and power consumption and load measurements provided by monitoring systems, it’s often possible to identify new ways to increase process efficiency.

Rightsizing motors
You don’t need a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and the same applies to the use of electric motors. Selecting a motor that matches the load is an important step in improving electrical motor efficiency.

The efficiency of a motor is at its greatest when it runs between 60% and 80% of rated power. The motor will become gradually less efficient as the load is lowered, and will become significantly less efficient when operating at a load below 35–40%. By replacing inefficient motors with more appropriately sized motors, the total energy consumption of a plant could be significantly reduced.

When rightsizing motors, it’s also important to balance the long-term effects of rightsizing with the short-term costs. For example, replacing an oversized and inefficient motor before it shows signs of a fault will incur a cost—but in the long term, the plant will save both money and energy by using a motor that’s better suited to the process.

Request a demo

If you’re interested in finding out more about how SAM4 condition monitoring could help your plant become more energy efficient, sign up for a demo here.


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