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St. Marys Cement in Bowmanville solidifies its energy management practices with certification

In the fall of 2009, St. Marys Cement in Bowmanville was the first North American industrial organization to receive its Certification in Energy Excellence (CEE). St. Marys received a silver level certificate after completing an in-depth, 12 month, third-party energy assessment. The certification was the culmination of three years of work on the company’s energy management program.


January 13, 2010
January 13, 2010
By Robert Colman

“We launched our energy management committee in 2006,” says Jim Storey, Electrical Maintenance Manager at the facility. “We called it E=MC2 — Energy Management Conservation Committee — giving it a brand and a logo to identify it for the people who work in our plant.”

To get buy-in to the program, team leaders Storey and Fabio Garcia, Bowmanville Plant Manager, recruited individuals from all areas of operations — quarry operations, mechanical maintenance, and electrical maintenance. “With that representation, we could accomplish a broad range of initiatives,” says Storey. 

The St. Marys team has taken a varied approach to creating change in energy management practices — everything from awareness training to partnering with innovative young companies to tackle unique challenges in their operations.

The low-hanging fruit
Like any company, St. Marys first considered what projects could be completed at a low cost or with a relatively rapid return on investment. Lighting retrofits were one area that was tackled, but the team in Bowmanville had a number of other quick wins as well.

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One investment the team made was on purchasing shell cooling fans for the company’s kiln.

“That wasn’t low cost, but it paid back fairly quickly because we were using compressed air previously to try and manage the temperature on our kiln’s shell,” explains Storey. “The fans are much more efficient than using compressed air.”

Storey says saving energy has been managed most effectively through better managing processes. “For instance, where we have two 1,500 horsepower fans, we noted that the two were always run in parallel,” says Storey. “From an operational point of view that was comfortable, and it felt safer because if you had a problem with one, the other was already running. But we took another look at that, reviewing the risk to our process in having only one run at a time. We now only run one fan at a time, and of course that represents a huge savings for us.” 

Beyond that, the team has reviewed set points for its heat exchanger fans, ensuring that, while the equipment is working optimally, it is not doing more than what is necessary for the process.

The company also installed ceiling fans in a maintenance building onsite, which improved energy use and worker comfort.

“People working in that building, especially on our big quarry trucks and loaders, being quite high up in the building, would complain how hot it was,” says Storey. “And of course, on the floor level it was extremely cold. Something as simple as putting in ceiling fans to move the warmer air was even noticed by our propane delivery men.” 

The idea for the fans came from a staff member working in that facility — one small demonstration of how energy management awareness has grown at the company and is becoming integrated into operations.

Staff awareness

A lot of what St. Marys Cement does to save money at Bowmanville is essentially load shifting — moving production activities to hours during which the cost of power is less. That requires staff awareness and planning.

“We are looking at pricing a lot,” says Storey. “We are involved in Demand Response programs, but even before we got involved in that, we were doing load shifting and really trying to marry our production plans with what typical prices would be off peak and weekends. It’s now a central part of our planning.”

To make that work, of course, requires awareness training.

“It’s sometimes hard to train our employees by saying ‘you need to do it to help the company’,” Storey accepts. “A lot of people don’t necessarily embrace that the same way they would if it was a ‘what’s in it for me’ thing. But we always try to promote the idea that it’s better for employees to think this way as well, and hopefully they will develop that habit, or that culture will evolve that they then bring the same attitude to work with them.”

To help drive that message home to employees, the energy management committee brought someone in to explain smart meters to the team. Smart meters are not something used at the facility, but they are now installed in homes across Ontario, so it was fairly simple to demonstrate how managing your energy use pattern can help at home and at work.

“It certainly helps employees better understand why we plan to run more at night or on the weekends in our production planning,” says Storey. “We try to say, ‘this is going to help you at home.’”

Innovative technology
Another slightly more unique project St. Marys has taken part in is, working in conjunction with Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), serving as a pilot project for the installation of a technology developed by Tenova Goodfellow. The technology monitors and controls combustion and related NOx, SOx and other greenhouse gas emissions during cement kiln operations. Fabio Garcia initiated the project.

“Tenova Goodfellow is already well-known in the steel industry for this technology,” Garcia explains. “They want to start to develop the technology for the cement and pulp and paper industries. Their technology gives you better control in terms of the combustion of the kiln. They asked us to serve as the pilot project – we are giving them the know-how to understand the cement industry and we are benefiting from the technology. They are developing the mapping and modeling process for the analyzer with us. By doing this you not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you optimize and improve the combustion.”

Certified value
With the money and energy being saved through its many efforts, it seems surprising that Garcia and Storey would consider any sort of certification necessary. But both know that process management is important, and adding a structured approach to their energy management practices was necessary.

“We were looking for somebody who could come in here and tell us what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, and what we could improve,” says Garcia. “We went with the certification managed by 360 Energy because it was the only one that certified our processes, not our product. What we like about it is that if Jim and I won the lottery tomorrow, someone else would be able to carry on with the energy management program when we leave the company. It helps us create a system to keep our energy management program going.” 

This is important to both Garcia and Storey because no one in the organization has the title of energy manager — energy management is being integrated into the culture.

The CEE program assesses, mentors, and recognizes an organization’s energy management efforts and plans for the future. Organizations often believe they’re doing all they can in energy management, and are often surprised by the tremendous room for improvement. Independent energy assessors conduct an in-depth assessment of the organization’s energy performance over the past three years. An energy baseline is established, and a trend of improvement demonstrated. Data is verified by the UK based, National Energy Foundation (NEF) which provides an independent, 3rd party evaluation based on rigorous international standards.

Through the certification process, the St. Marys team added some procedures and changed others, as well as adding some controls to track energy savings and demonstrate how they are being calculated. All of this was developed into an energy plan for the company.

“We will of course evolve that plan, because recertification demands that you demonstrate some improvement,” says Storey. And, of course, the company is already seeing some results.

“Our overall energy demand is probably half a megawatt less than it was since we started this program – just from awareness efforts and how we can run our processes without as big a peak load,” says Storey.

The next steps are to do more of the same and to recruit more buy-in, says Garcia. “We will be doing our very successful energy week program again this year. We have also brought more people onto the committee — people from finance and HR as well. And we will also be looking at potential funding options to improve our efficiency. Our messaging is changing also — we are not just talking about kilowatts, but also how we are reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Storey believes, with the certification and the success the team has had so far, the next while is going to mean more work for the St. Marys team.

“As part of the certification process, I think now that we’ve done an awful lot, we have to structure things more so that it’s easier to get better measurables. If some capital money becomes available, we have to make sure that all of our paybacks and all of our numbers are right and we can demonstrate that and document it well.”

The plant is doing its best to make sure that the know-how is there. For instance, as Garcia explained, the plant’s accountant is getting up to speed on potential government funding for energy savings, and any other ways that the return on investment for energy-saving projects can be increased.

Education for employees in general is a critical concern for both Garcia and Storey and they want to do more. Ideally, Garcia imagines an internal certification for employees on energy — “For instance, making sure they understand how much it costs for an air compression leak — that is important knowledge.”

For the time being, the team is “trying to improve and tweak what we’ve got, explore it and see what we can do beyond this,” says Storey. With the buy-in and ideas they are getting from the shop floor, more successes are sure to come.