SoCalGas program boosts industrial energy efficiency

Tags: energy management

Many of California’s industrial plant managers know there are energy-efficient alternatives to the equipment and practices they use in operating their facilities. But sometimes they need help in conducting plant assessments that identify areas for energy savings, quantify benefits and indicate strategies for making efficiency improvements. That’s where the Industrial End-User pilot program at Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas, a Sempra Energy utility) comes in.

The SoCalGas Industrial End User pilot program is a collaborative effort with the California Energy Commission (CEC), the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Industrial Technologies Program (ITP), universities and the state’s industrial assessment centers. The pilot was created in response to mandates from the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to increase energy efficiency throughout the state, and it is modeled in part on nationwide DOE manufacturing plant assessments.

The focus of these assessments initially has been on reducing natural gas usage by helping industry optimize the efficiency of their process heating and steam systems. However, customers also benefit from DOE training related to improving the efficiency of motors, air compressors and other energy-consuming systems.

The program breaks new ground in its approach to energy efficiency by tailoring traditional classroom training material to each customer’s needs. Strategies include both measurement training and process assessments. ITP software tools are used to model process energy consumption, and ITP steam and process heating tip sheets explain common system improvement techniques.

A photo of two Southern California Gas Company employees checking some industrial equipment, including pipes, valves, and ductwork, at a training facility in California.
Bryan Warren (left) and Carlos Ruiz of Southern California Gas Company, a Sempra utility, check equipment at the company’s training facility in Pico Rivera, Calif. For its current energy assessment and training program, SoCalGas is focusing on customers who use more than $1 million in natural gas annually.

Significant Potential for Savings
SoCalGas is the largest regional utility of its kind in the nation, serving more than 200 industrial customers whose natural gas costs each exceed $1 million per year. However, most of the utility’s customers fall below the 1 trillion Btu in annual energy consumption required to qualify for DOE-sponsored Energy Savings Assessments (ESAs) of large plants being implemented under Save Energy Now, the industrial component of DOE’s "Easy Ways to Save Energy" campaign.

Therefore, SoCalGas has adopted the ESA model and is working with its large industrial customers to identify energy-efficient process improvements and to quantify annual therm and dollar savings. Because SoCalGas delivers more than 50 percent of California’s supply of industrial natural gas, Industrial End User program activities benefit not just the southern region but the entire state, as well.

Assessments Show Specific Opportunities
Both SoCalGas and DOE Qualified Specialists in industrial systems train customers and help them assess opportunities in a process similar to DOE’s industrial ESAs. The CEC and DOE have already helped SoCalGas facilitate several ESAs, and the resulting assessment reports identify applicable utility program incentives for large industrial gas customers and others. In addition, six SoCalGas industrial system experts have received training and certification as DOE Qualified Specialists, to date.

During the last year, SoCalGas has worked closely with DOE consultants to customize and simplify the methodology used in the Process Heating Assessment and Survey Tool (PHAST) and the Steam System Assessment Tool (SSAT), both of which are used to quantify savings and document the calculations.

“SCG has developed a suite of calculation tools that will enable nonengineers to perform the fairly complex energy efficiency calculations we require. We are quite pleased with the results and believe it to be a big step in the right direction,” says Mark Gaines, SoCalGas Director of Customer Programs.

As it continues to help industrial companies find good ways to reduce their energy and operating costs, the SoCalGas Industrial End User pilot program stands to serve as a very good model for other regional utilities.

For more information on the Industrial End User pilot program, contact the program manager, Bryan Warren. Also, visit ITP’s BestPractices Web site for more resources to help you identify money and energy savings opportunities.

Read More Energy Matters Articles on These Topics
Energy Cost Management
Industrial Assessment Centers
Plant Assessments
Process Heating
Steam Systems

This article was written for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program and appeared in the DOE’s Energy Matters newsletter. For more information, visit New Call-to-action