How BASF's Process Control and Electrical Engineering Contribute to Improving Energy Efficiency

27 April 2009

Martin Schwibach, senior automation manager at BASF, a large chemical company, explained that the company gives top priority to saving energy. There are multiple drivers for this. Firstly, the shortage of oil and gas resources will continue to be a major factor in manufacturing costs. The need to preserve both resources and the environment drives sustainable manufacturing, which requires companies to rely less and less on oil and gas for energy and raw materials.

BASF has a goal to reduce gas emission 25 per cent by 2020
BASF has a goal to reduce gas emission 25 per cent by 2020

BASF's goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, implying a comparable increase in energy efficiency. This exceeds the European Council of 2007's policy to achieve 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

In the future, BASF wants to use more renewable energy sources, that are economical in themselves and do not require economic stimulation from the state.

"Verbund" is the term that BASF uses to identify the company's integration initiative, which includes integrated energy production and manufacturing at production sites, with highly efficient material and energy processes.

The energy efficiency of modern gas turbine power plants, which is currently around 60 per cent, can be improved to approach 90 per cent in combined-cycle electricity and steam generation plants. More efficient production processes can also contribute to reduced energy consumption.

Processes and equipment can be designed for energy efficiency. One example is using reactive distillation or dividing wall distillation that combines two or more unit operations in a single piece of equipment. The remaining steam demand can further be reduced by so-called heat-integration of processes and plants, whereby heat and steam are reused, inside and across plants on the site, if appropriate.

Heat integration makes processes and their control more complex. An example is load-dependent control of reboiler heating in a distillation column.

The use of APC to reduce of quality variance also leads to lower energy usage. BASF targets both batch and continuous processes. The company reports that the payback on process control applications for energy efficiency is generally less than one year. BASF monitors specific energy consumption versus throughput, compared to historical data and the benchmark. The deviations are used to trigger problem solving, resulting in significant energy and cost savings.

The company’s electrical engineering group modernises old lamp fittings with mirrors and electronic control, which can reduce energy consumption by 15 per cent. Variable speed controls and high efficiency drives reduce energy consumption by 20 to 30 per cent and 3 to 5 per cent, respectively, significantly reducing lifecycle costs for pumps. Temperature-dependent controls on anti-freeze protection of process equipment have reduced energy consumption by 80 per cent at the company's main manufacturing complex in Ludwigshafen. This corresponds to the annual electricity typically consumed by 250 households.

BASF's recommendation is to start by designing energy-efficient process technology, and to apply operability analysis and process control design in early design stages. For existing plants, energy-efficient devices should replace older equipment. In operations, BASF recommends the use of APC, KPI monitoring, and a continuous improvement approach. BASF also recommends that companies communicate best practices and standardise on solutions and tools for ongoing improvements.

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