Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Natural Gas Prices And Emissions Prompt Installations

In February, the Energy Information Administration, which is the official energy statistics from the U.S. government, projected a 2.7 percent decline in U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP), which would trigger decreases in domestic energy consumption for all major fuels.

The downturn is also contributing to a decline in natural gas consumption, particularly in the industrial sector, which has led to lower natural gas prices. The Henry Hub natural gas spot price is projected to decline from an average of $9.13per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in 2008 to about $5 per Mcf in 2009. However, it is projected to increase in 2010 to almost $6 per Mcf.

Specifically, while consumption growth in 2010 remains largely dependent upon the timing and pace of economic recovery, some projections estimate a 2.2 percent growth in the electric power sector, combined with slight growth in the residential and industrial sectors in 2010. Increased consumption, combined with a continued decline in drilling activity (currently, there are only 970 working rigs), will likely cause significant increases in demand.

In addition, more public facilities are expected to make moves toward natural gas solutions this year. In February, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a letter asking the Capitol Architect to switch the Capitol Power Plant from coal to 100 percent natural gas by the end of 2009.

Since manufacturing plants are currently saving money on natural gas prices, the best time to retrofit boilers and improve efficiency might be right now, prior to natural gas increases next year. In addition to meeting the definition of best available technology, Benz Air Engineering solutions successfully exceed all federal emission guidelines.

Many solutions qualify for rebates, including up to 50 percent of the installation cost. Some projects may qualify for additional funds under the terms of the federal stimulus package.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Combustion Air Flow Control Strategy Is Flawed

After reviewing many boilers with the nearly identical control strategy, I believe there are some substantial issues relating to the simultaneous fan speed and damper control for the control of combustion air flow, not the least of which is a scenario where an explosion can occur. And, while the likelihood of an explosion may be unknown, the use of the strategy for combustion air flow control is fundamentally flawed.

Exploring The Phenomenon

The boiler burner is a parabolic system, pressure drop increasing to the square of the flow through the boiler. A damper will merely increase the pressure drop which pushes the system operating point up that curve, increasing the pressure on the fan while reducing the flow from that fan.

This is true so long as the operating point is on the right of the maximum pressure point of the pressure versus flow fan curve. The control air flow by a damper to the left of this point is nearly impossible since the slope is positive, which means opening the damper will result in a decrease in flow from the fan and closing the damper will result in an increase in flow. Operation in this range typically results in a flame out at synchronous speed which is set as the limit of operation (otherwise known as turndown ratio).

Closing the damper a full speed to cause a pressure drop of 5"wc will decrease the air flow by 18kCFM. To reduce the flow by that same 18kCFM requires the damper to impart just 1.7"wc of pressure drop on a fan running at 50 percent speed. Therefore, the attempt to control air flow by simultaneously controlling fan speed and damper opening is tenuous at best.

Assuming that the opening of the damper is repeatable (the linkage slop making that assumption unreasonable), the control of flow at lower fan speeds is exponentially more sensitive to damper opening, which means that the smallest of damper movement will result in incredible increases or decreases in air volume flow.

Moreover, the flat curve of a slowed fan, makes the transition into the positive slope of the fan curve substantially more likely than that of a synchronous fan. The propensity of the damper to cause operation near or at the maximum pressure point of the fan curve increases the likelihood for the fan to operate on the positive slope portion of the pressure versus flow curve.

In exploring the affects of this phenomenon within a boiler, let's assume that the boiler is operating below its setpoint O2 AND the fan operating point fell on the left side of the curve during the ramp down of the boiler. The O2 trim signal would kick in, opening up the damper (increasing the fan speed would result in the point maintaining its location on the positive slope). However, because the operating point was initially at the left of the maximum pressure point of the fan curve, the volume flow rate of combustion air is reduced.

The lower combustion air results in filling the firebox with CO and unburned fuel. The damper continues to open to a point where the opinion would allow the greatly higher air flow on the negative slope of the fan, instantaneously filling the combustible filled firebox with enough air to cause an explosion.

Please bear in mind that most low NOx burners have a tendency to produce vibrations regardless of the combustion control.

When the burner is a stage fuel burner, the design of which injects fuel through opposing spuds into the firebox in the attempt to lower NOx by stretching the flame over a longer path within the firebox. This design is predisposed to flame detachment, which is exasperated by stratification of recirculated flue gas which reduces flame speed.

As the flame detaches from the burner front, fuel is injected into the firebox accumulating in pockets which combust instantaneously upon reaching the detach flame. We typically redesign the burners to sharply reduce the tendency for flame detachment. (The stage fuel approach for lowering NOx is just one of many approaches sold which have no basis in fact, as a old ring burner will actually get lower NOx with the same amount of FGR.)

*Boiler operators are encouraged to request a fan analysis and supporting documents from Benz Air Engineering.

Providing A Solution

There seems to be an increasing number of installations that have similar control schemes. After reviewing several boilers that have experienced furnace explosions, it seems most likely that the combustion air flow strategy is the cause. If the combustion air flow strategy using a simultaneous fan speed and damper control is not the cause, then it seems to be, at the very least, a contributing factor.

We recommend that any such installations be evaluated before other flawed solutions are implemented to alleviate the symptoms of a considerable problem. For example, one operator had installed buckstays in an attempt to alleviate the noise from combustion vibration, which resulted in concentrating the vibration within the boiler. It was our conclusion that this concentration most likely contributed to the fatigue fractures of their superheater tubes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Energy And Environment Focus Leads To Rapid Regulation

With the Obama Administration's emphasis on energy and the environment, more people are wondering what this might mean for manufacturing. From what Benz Air Engineering has gleaned from several meetings and presentations, most industry insiders seem to be pointing to the Western Climate Initiative, launched in 2007, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as the regulatory drivers for a future national model.

For environmentalists and the energy industry, the most notable feature is that 2012 projections include revenues from a source that does not yet exist: a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade system. Currently, there are two cap-and-trade models being implemented in the Northeast and West.

Some other key points for consideration at Western Climate Initiative meetings:

• Reduce CO2, CH4,N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6 emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels, by 2020.
• Priority reductions, including facilities that emit 10,000 metric tons of C02e by 2010
• Mandatory reporting by all emission producers by 2011
• Future regulations for manufacturers that emit > 25,000 MTCO2e/year by 2012
• Future regulations for electrical generators at the point of first delivery by 2012
• Future regulations for emission sources at the point of emission by 2012
• Future regulations on transportation gasoline and diesel combustion by 2015
• Mandatory implementation of GHG Inventory Management Plan

Benz Air Engineering is already working with several sites to meet future emission mandates while improving efficiencies that result in an immediate fuel cost savings. Most engineering solutions, which optimize efficiency and minimize emissions for industrial, utility and district energy and steam generation facilities, realize an payback in approximately two years. Many qualify for rebates, including up to 50 percent of the installation cost.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quick Plant Energy Profiler Evaluates Energy Management

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Quick Plant Energy Profiler Software Tool is one of several free web-based programs developed by the DOE to help U.S. industry improve energy management at industrial facilities. The software is designed for industrial plant managers and personal who have access to basic information about major energy-consuming systems at their industrial plants.

Simple to use, energy managers or boiler operators can complete a plant profile in about an hour. The Quick PEP tool asks for:

• Average utility bill information
• Average production information
• Major energy-using systems
• Score cards (optional)
• Average energy usage information

Once the information is input, Quick PEP tool can produce a profile that includes:

• The Quick PEP tool will provide the following:
• Energy use and cost per unit of production
• Annual purchased energy graphs and tables
• Potential annual energy savings graphs and tables
• Customized list of next steps, including recommended ITP software tools for further analysis of specific systems

Once registered, the Quick PEP case Quick PEP provides a customized, printable report that shows the details of energy purchases at the plant, how energy is consumed at the plant, potential cost and energy savings at the plant, and a list of next steps that you can follow to get you started saving energy at your plant. There is also an online tutorial, which provides key definitions and step-by-step instructions.

One of the most compelling portions of the report is how much energy each major systems in your plant use on an annual basis. Even if you are unsure of percentages of total electricity or total fuel/steam that each system uses, Quick PEP is equipped with industry averages.

In addition to evaluating the savings opportunities provided by the software, Benz Air Engineering can help your plant review the information and prioritize energy management systems around your boiler. Or, simply fill out and return a brief one-page questionnaire.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Two-Part Equation: Renewables And Efficiencies

According to The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), energy consumption has doubled between 1971 and 2005 and fossil fuels provide approximately 79 percent of the global supply. But what IRENA, a new intergovernmental organization for renewable energy with 75 member countries, does not spell out is that the majority of the world's population doesn't rely on this supply.

Specifically, it is estimated that 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity and 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass (wood and dung). As people in developing countries require more energy, most will turn to fossil fuels much like China and India have since 1971. (China and India doubled their energy demand since 1990 and are expected to match or surpass OECD countries by 2030.)

Solution: Renewables

IRENA aims to become a driving force in a rapid transition toward the widespread global use of renewable energy. Specifically, the new agency will facilitate access to reliable data on the potential of renewable energy, as well as information about best practices, effective financial mechanisms, and the state of the art in renewable energy technologies. The agency will also develop and promote renewable energy policies on the local, regional, and national level. You can learn more about IRENA goals here.

While the United States has not yet joined the agency, it was represented at the founding meeting by an observer from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. And, in recent weeks, the United States will join as it moves toward tighter emissions standards and renewable energy. ON Jan. 30, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they will invest up to $25 million over the next four years for the research and development of processes that produce biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products.

Solution: Efficiencies

Of course, renewable energy is only part of the equation for sustainability. The other component is making more efficient use of the energy we have on hand. For example, one of Benz Air Engineering's recent retrofits in Modesto, Calif., reduced the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions of one boiler from 30 parts per million to 6 parts per million. And, because the boiler is operating more efficiently and burning less fuel while delivering the same output, CO2 was reduced 20 percent. Four areas for consideration:

• Efficiency: Solutions require less fuel to produce a given energy output.
• Reliability: Solutions typically retrofit on proven, reliable steam boilers.
• Environmental: Solutions reduce CO2 by requiring less fuel, and reduce NOx.
• Economic: Solutions save manufacturing plants on their energy bills.

For example, if every manufacturing plant in the United States was retrofitted to provide for better efficiency, the United States could reduce its energy demand by as much as 20 percent. It makes sense for companies to consider reducing their energy needs as quickly as possible because most estimates project the global population will reach 9 billion people by 2030.

Considering the combined rate of population growth and the rapid pace of growth among developing countries, supply and demand will likely increase energy prices exponentially. In addition, there seem to be clear indicators that stricter emissions standards will be forthcoming under the new administration.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Del Monte In Modesto, Calif. Benefits From Compu-NOx

When a Del Monte Foods plant operating in Modesto, Calif., was required to reduce NOx emissions to less than a limit of 30 parts per million (ppm) in the 1990s, several special considerations had to be made in order to meet the needs of its seasonal production schedule. Specifically, the boiler, with a 10:1 turndown target, would have to operate with a near full load for three months of the year, but less than 20,000 pounds per hour for re-manufacturing during the rest of the year.

One of several unique features included with the initial bid saved the plant from having to purchase and install a new 300-horsepower fan. Instead, Benz Air Engineering installed a 250-horsepower variable speed drive to control an existing combustion air fan. It also added a 5-horsepower flue gas recirculation fan, which was also controlled by a variable speed drive. These solutions better met the needs of the plant. And, since the 250-horsepower fan operated at less than 400 watts of power, it is estimated the variable fan solution saved as much as $7,000 per month.

There were several other breakthroughs provided by Benz Air with its Compu-NOx solution. For example, Del Monte Foods' initial turndown requirement was 10:1, but the Compu-NOx solution delivered a boiler turndown of 15:1 while maintaining very tight and responsive boiler controls. This, combined with a unique feedwater control that eliminated an old pneumatic control, enabled Benz Air to increase boiler efficiency that resulted in an estimated annual savings of $100,000 in natural gas.

Highlights from the Initial Retrofit

• Reduced NOx emissions to 22 ppm, well below the 30 ppm requirement.
• Reduced CO emissions to 50 ppm, well below the 400 ppm requirement.
• Increased efficiency to ensure low NOx and CO levels attained with .8% O2.
• Meet all emission requirements at full capacity, and with a 25:1 turndown.

Since the initial retrofit, Benz has returned to Del Monte Foods several times to help the plant meet new requirements. To date, Benz has assisted in increasing plant efficiency to greater than 93 percent, reducing NOx emissions to less than 6 ppm, and earning more than $265,000 in efficiency rebates.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Green Energy Can Fuel Economic Recovery

With the U.S. economy continuing to suffer through a serious economic slowdown and unemployment reaching 7.2 percent nationwide (9.1 in Nevada), there is no better time for green energy — specifically measures already passed by Congress — to become a priority in helping fuel economy recovery.

Just one of these measures, the funding of Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) Section 471, could create up to 7,000 jobs by the end of 2010. In fact, according to the International District Energy Association (IDEA), job creation could start immediately by focusing efforts on "shovel-ready" projects. IDEA has compiled some 62 member projects that are ready to start in 28 states.

Funding EISA Section 471 creates jobs and sustainable benefits.

• It provides near-term economic stimulus, designing and building new clean energy infrastructure.
• It stimulates local economies in the long term by encouraging investments in local energy supplies and sources.
• It reduces costs at public institutions by cutting energy consumption and reducing emissions.
• It stimulates private investment in green infrastructure, providing near-term and long-term benefits.
• It achieves critical environmental and energy goals by reducing demand on local power supplies.

Along with funding EISA Section 471, IDEA recently released green economic stimulus recommendations as part of its energy and environmental policy for the new administration. These recommendations work because they increase economic productivity, result in labor intensive jobs, and reduce the exportation of stimulus dollars. Some highlights from the full brief:

• Loans and Grants for Institutions. The appropriation of $750 million annually for five years has already been authorized for implementing or improving sustainable energy infrastructure, which benefits institutions of higher education, local governments, municipal utilities, and public school districts.

• Waste Energy Recovery Incentives. Sections 451-453 of EISA draw additional attention to the recovery of industrial waste heat so it can be recycled into usable heat and electricity. The provision establishes waste energy recovery grants.

• CHP Investment Tax Credit. The current CHP investment tax credit (ITC) under Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Service Code only makes eligible the first 15 MW of capacity. Increasing the cap to 50 MW would encourage the implementation of many projects that could quickly result in efficiency increases and reduced emissions.

• Tax-Exempt Financing. Currently, the IRS Code allows tax-exempt bonds to be used for “local district heating and cooling facilities.” However, the interpretation needs to include plant facilities, which would encourage the implementation of job-producing, low-carbon energy systems such as thermal energy production equipment.

• Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). While the definition of ‘renewable’ varies dramatically from state to state, it generally focuses on solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. IDEA recommends EERS include CHP and other forms of waste energy and waste heat recovery to be included within the definition.

Benz Air Engineering Co. specializes in custom-engineered solutions, combining expertise in various distributed control systems and programmable logic controllers for the implementation of energy efficiency projects. More than 230 boilers have been retrofitted throughout the country by Benz Air, typically providing a return on investment in approximately one year.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Review Your State's Energy Management Programs

The Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), which works to reduce the cost and environmental impact of the federal government, recently released its state-by-state assessment of current energy management programs. The report details state energy management programs, including:

Public-purpose-funded energy efficiency programs, which are administered either by utilities, state agencies or other third parties. These programs generally help fund conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy programs.
Utility energy efficiency programs, which are administered by local utilities to help improve infrastructure through financial, technological, and operational solutions that meet specific criteria.
• Load management/demand response options, which provide incentives to curtail demand and reduce load during peak periods in response to system reliability or market conditions.
Distributed energy resource options, which include programs that provide incentives for renewable distributed generation.
Energy efficiency programs sponsored by the state government, which generally include research, development, and demonstration programs such as those offered by California's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.
• Any additional opportunities, including area-wide contracts with GSA and, by extension, all other federal agencies.

For detailed information about specific state programs, visit the Energy-Efficiency Funds and Demand Response Programs and click on your state. In addition to programs, each brief details participating utilities and program partners.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Funding Energy Sustainability And Efficiency for Institutions

In 2007, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which was then signed by the President. Among many other initiatives and programs, the act authorized a program for Energy Sustainability and Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions [Section 471 of Public Law 110-140, incorporated as Section 399a in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6371h-1)]. Funded, these projects could:

• Provide near-term economic stimulus by designing and building new clean energy infrastructure that will stimulate high quality construction and green collar jobs.
• Stimulate local economies in the long term by investing in local energy supplies and sources that keep money recirculating in regional economies and improve the U.S. international trade balance.
• Reduce pressure on public institutions because these newer energy assets cut operating costs, reduce emissions and relieve financial pressures on higher education and communities.
• Achieve critical environmental and energy goals, including reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increased local power supplies and reduced peak power demand.

However, due to the economic crisis, many clean energy infrastructure and sustainability projects at public institutions made possible by the bipartisan passage of (EISA) Section 471 have been halted at a time when university endowments have shrunk, credit markets have tightened, and local government tax revenues are down.

Since the immediate and long-term benefits include creating jobs, reducing institutional costs, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying fuels, and saving energy, I believe urgent action is needed for investments in public sector energy infrastructure. And last week, I sent the following letter, along with a three-page program and benefit summary, to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I urge you to support, as a part of the economic stimulus bill, $1.5 billion in funding for Energy Sustainability and Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions as authorized in the Energy Security and Independence Act (EISA) of 2007. The attached three-page summary describes this program and its benefits.*

By funding EISA Section 471, Congress will provide significant near-term job creation benefits. These shovel-ready projects are also transformative, providing sustained economic stimulus by reducing carbon emissions, increasing economic competitiveness, strengthening power grids and enhancing energy security.

The funding can be quickly and effectively delivered through procurement processes being developed by the Department of Energy as directed in EISA.

Thank you for your interest and support in strengthening our nation's energy infrastructure.

Sincerely yours,
Robert Benz

Since these funds still need to be appropriated, I encourage you to do the same. Urge your members of Congress and U.S. senators to fully fund section 471 Energy Sustainability and Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions of Public Law 110-140, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. You can also learn more about this section of the act and other energy programs at the UCLA Sustainability Institute of the Environment.

*Available on request

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What's The First Boiler Question To Ask In 2009?

"What has been the average percentage of O2 in each boiler stack over the past 24 hours?"

As fuel burns, it produces chemical chain reactions. For example, the presence of nitrogen and excess oxygen radicals in this hot combustion environment promotes the formation of nitrogen oxides, or NOx.

However, by using air mass flow and fuel mass flow solutions as control parameters to maintain specific chemical reaction ratios, the amount of excess oxygen in flue gases can be limited and the possibility of unburned fuel eliminated. In fact, a one percent increase in boiler efficiency can be achieved by lowering excess oxygen in flue gases by two percent.

How can this be accomplished? Benz Air Engineering focuses on boiler retrofits that include technologies and components that were not available when most boilers were built decades ago. The result is more efficient boiler for a fraction of the cost of a new boiler, without sacrificing the reliability of boilers that were built to last more than a hundred years. Payback is typically less than two years.

Benz Air solutions can increase boiler efficiency to better than 95 percent, saving millions of dollars in fuel and energy while meeting all emission regulation guidelines. Many installations also qualify for rebates up to 50 percent, which can be predetermined by Benz Air engineers.

If your plant is considering a boiler replacement or retrofit in 2009, Benz Air can provide a cost comparison to help make the best decision. Simply fill out and return a brief one-page questionnaire and fax it back to Benz Air offices.