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Optimization of the energy systems in the plastics chromium-plating industry: plant and system analysis and reconfiguration in a case study

DOI: 10.1615/ICHMT.2004.IntThermSciSemin.390
pages 349-356

Marco Boscolo
Department of Energetics, University of Trieste, via Valerio 10, Trieste, Italy

Elio Padoano
Department of Energetics, University of Trieste, via Valerio 10, Trieste, Italy


The reduction of indirect production costs is a beneficial saving opportunity whenever manufacturing plants are based on mature technologies which could be hardly improved any further. Given such context, corporate executives and managers are showing renewed interest in the reduction of energy consumption, especially in the light of recent energy price increases which on average implied the doubling of corporate energy costs during the last two years.
This paper presents the results of an investigation relating to the revision and improvement of the energy system in a plastics chromium-plating company which utilizes important amounts of power and heat.
Before suggesting any improved rearrangement of the energy systems deployed in the plant concerned, a careful survey was carried out to quantify the plant energy flows and determine their respective quality — the different energy carriers used — as well as their utilizations time pattern — their respective hourly demands. The determinations were differentiated into electric power and thermal energy. The analysis of energy flows showed the opportunity to rearrange and improve the plant energy systems by means of combined heat and power generation.
Several important reasons, related in particular with capital cost containment, made it necessary to keep the energy carriers unaltered and to change only the method of energy generation. On the basis of these considerations, we focused on a natural gas, reciprocating prime mover, the size of which was optimized taking into consideration all relevant technical, operating, economic and financial parameters.
The proposed arrangement was in line with the typical investment viability requirements of maximum plant utilizations and would make the most of the energy resources generated, in addition to allowing the Company to benefit from more favourable rates for its natural gas supply because of its higher natural gas purchasing levels.
The investigation on the energy systems, serving the plastics chromium-plating industry, evidenced interesting opportunities for the installation of combined heat and power generation. In particular it showed that combined heat and power generation is viable even if prime movers with a relatively small capacity (a few hundreds kW) are installed. However, the results put into evidence that it is necessary to provide for a careful validation of expected achievements, which must include a proper analysis of system operation in the light of corporate development policies.

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