In March 2006, West Linn Paper Company received a Save Energy Now assessment from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at the company’s coated paper mill in West Linn, Ore. While the mill was already taking measures to improve the efficiency of its steam system, DOE energy expert Bill Moir of Steam Engineering Inc. conducted an assessment to help the plant identify additional opportunities with significant savings potential. Employees learned how to analyze the mill’s energy consumption using DOE’s suite of steam system software tools.
The assessment provided seven recommendations, including specific actions the plant could take immediately to implement the energy savings opportunities that had been considered previously but not yet completed, such as:
As a result of these efforts, the mill achieved annual natural gas savings of approximately 58,200 MMBtu.
With annual cost savings of $379,000 and total implementation costs of $176,000, the mill’s simple payback was under six months.
Company and Plant Background
Founded in 1889 in West Linn, Ore., the West Linn Paper Company is the oldest active paper mill and the largest manufacturer of coated free-sheet paper in the western United States. The mill’s 250 employees produce close to 700 tons daily of coated paper under the Sonoma, Capistrano and Nature Web brand names. The company’s paper products are sold throughout North America and are used for high-end advertising materials, magazines, catalogs and book publishing.
The mill’s steam system is served by three boilers, including two dual fuel (natural gas and No. 6 fuel oil) units and one natural gas-fired boiler. Steam is very important for the mill’s production as it is used to dry paper and to power two back pressure turbines that drive the line shafts on two papermaking machines. At the time of the assessment, the steam system generated approximately 166,000 pounds per hour at 200 psig.
While the mill does not have a formal energy management policy, energy efficiency is a strong priority. In the late 1990s, the mill’s steam load averaged nearly 200,000 pounds per hour. At a DOE-sponsored workshop several years earlier, mill personnel obtained 3E Plus, DOE’s insulation assessment tool that enabled them to analyze their insulation levels. The mill began adding insulation to various parts of the steam distribution network and taking steps to improve efficiency, including performing regular steam trap surveys and maintenance. Plant personnel first began to realize the value of energy efficiency when they fixed the steam traps for the first time and the steam load was reduced by nearly 12,000 pounds. Since the mill began improving its steam system efficiency, energy use has declined from 7,500 to 5,200 pounds per ton of paper and production has increased by 40 percent.
The Save Energy Now assessment conducted at the West Linn mill was sponsored by the DOE Industrial Technologies Program (ITP), which provides energy experts to help industrial facilities evaluate and improve system efficiency. As a qualified specialist in the use of DOE’s steam system assessment tool (SSAT) software, the energy expert formed an assessment team with mill employees and installed the SSAT on their computers. This enabled them to learn the software and review the data together to determine how they could make the mill’s steam system more efficient. They also used SSAT to model the mill’s steam system.
After modeling the mill’s steam system and evaluating the data, the assessment team identified seven energy savings opportunities and evaluated each one for technical and economic feasibility. They also compared the expected energy savings and associated payback periods in order to decide which were near-, medium- or long-term opportunities.
If all the above recommendations were implemented, the total annual energy cost savings was estimated at approximately $1.5 million.
Encouraged by the findings in the assessment, mill personnel implemented several of the recommendations by taking the following actions:
As a result of all these projects, the mill’s steam load now averages 164,000 pounds per hour. Although natural gas costs declined since the assessment, the mill achieved annual cost savings of $379,000 and energy savings of 58,200 MMBtu — approximately 3 percent of the plant’s energy use before the assessment. With total implementation costs of $176,000, the mill achieved a simple payback of about six months.
Due to the lower natural gas costs since the time of the assessment and the increased emissions that greater use of No. 6 oil would cause, substituting No. 6 oil for natural gas was found to be unfavorable. The two remaining long-term recommendations from the assessment were under serious consideration at the time of publication. A proposal and funding request has been made to install a feed water economizer on boiler No. 2. If approved, the mill will be able to remove the feed water heater fairly easily, saving an additional estimated 27,000 MMBtu and $223,000 per year.
A strong commitment to energy efficiency can lead to significant energy savings. At the West Linn paper mill, the absence of a formal energy management program did not prevent mill employees from taking meaningful steps to improve the efficiency of the steam system. This included installing new controls, adding insulation and repairing steam traps. While the Save Energy Now assessment found more opportunities for energy savings in the mill’s steam system using the SSAT, it also reinforced efforts already in progress to improve energy efficiency and helped justify the implementation of those projects.
In addition to the SSAT, other DOE software tools can be used to analyze industrial systems and processes and generate energy efficiency opportunities, including: AIRMaster+, the Fan System Assessment Tool (FSAT), MotorMaster+, the Process Heating Assessment and Survey Tool (PHAST), the Pumping System Assessment Tool (PSAT) and 3E Plus.
Save Energy Now
Save Energy Now is a national campaign started in 2005 in response to a rapid rise in energy prices. This campaign helps U.S. industry reduce energy use and supports national goals for energy security. Through Save Energy Now, DOE’s Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) helps industrial plants operate more efficiently and profitably by identifying ways to reduce energy use in key industrial process systems. Visit www.eere.energy.gov/industry/saveenergynow for more information.