Proactive energy management at California Portland Cement

Steve Coppinger
Tags: energy management

Energy management is a hot topic these days, and that should come as no surprise. With energy costs rising dramatically and environmental regulations tightening, the pressure for industrial companies to reduce energy consumption is also increasing. The cement industry is especially sensitive because it is one of the major energy consumers in the United States, spending more than $1.2 billion per year on energy.

In many cement plants, energy amounts to as much as 50 percent of variable costs. But California Portland Cement Company is standing firm on reducing its energy costs and lowering process emissions by implementing a corporate energy management program. Among the many benefits so far, the program has saved the company a total of $3 million.

About California Portland Cement

For more than a century, California Portland Cement has been supplying customers throughout the western United States with construction building materials. Headquartered near Los Angeles in Glendora, Calif., the company is a major supplier of cement, concrete and concrete products, aggregates and asphalt. Today, its 2,000 employees operate facilities from Alaska to the northern border of Mexico. California Portland Cement sells 6 million tons of cement, 3 million yards of concrete and 8 million tons of aggregates, which are worth nearly $1 billion in annual sales. To generate this volume, California Portland Cement uses highly intensive processes such as crushing, grinding and heating raw materials to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. In 2003, seeking ways to curb energy use, save money and improve environmental performance, the company established an energy management program. In fact, California Portland Cement has made energy management a core activity in its business plan.

"Effectively managing energy is an important part of our day-to-day operations," says chief executive officer Jim Repman. "As an EPA Energy Star partner, we place a high value on the environmental and fiscal savings gained from superior energy management."

This corporate-wide philosophy is the foundation that guides the other important elements described below.

Energy-Focused Teams

At the outset, California Portland Cement assigned an energy manager and formed an energy management team consisting of plant and corporate personnel. The team represents several different departments and functional areas, including engineering, operations, maintenance, accounting, executive management and procurement.

In addition, the company enlisted assistance from the Energy Star program in developing a plan and putting the team together. The formal plan outlined goals, methods and specific energy savings target areas. Saving money was the motivating factor for the plan, and the team realized that even a 5 percent improvement could result in millions of dollars in energy savings each year. However, they also saw that this effort could save significant amounts of process emissions.

Now that the program is under way, the corporate energy team meets every two months and rotates to different facilities throughout the company. This helps them target savings opportunities at the facilities and allows local plant employees to participate. In addition, each major facility or division has its own local team to ensure that initiatives are implemented.

California Portland Cement also created a process energy team made up of process engineers who conduct periodic energy assessments on specific plant areas throughout the company. They take measurements, review operational data, calibrate instruments and write reports describing opportunities. The process energy team also brings in consultants and uses resources such as those available through the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) to conduct energy audits.

An Emphasis on Corporate and Employee Buy-in

California Portland Cement has found that support and cooperation throughout the company, from plant employees to executive management, are essential to the effective implementation of the energy program. One of the sustaining elements is the commitment of its senior management. For example, the senior vice president of operations and the vice president of engineering participate in all corporate energy meetings. Through their participation, the energy program gains credibility and reinforces the need to meet company efficiency goals.

Because of the corporate emphasis on energy management, it is a regular topic at quarterly cost review meetings and frequently on the agenda at executive, staff and board meetings. Corporate managers also understand the need to recognize employees for their contributions to the program's success. To bolster buy-in among plant employees, California Portland Cement has initiated a pilot bonus program at one of its plants. Employees receive incentive bonuses tied to the plant's energy performance. And throughout the company, employees are recognized at awards luncheons and other events attended by the CEO.

Methods for Measuring Performance

Led by the firm belief that "you can't manage what you don't measure," California Portland Cement has put in place data-archiving systems to monitor energy performance at the manufacturing plants. The process energy team measures power consumption and fuel usage per unit of production at each phase of production; this data is reviewed at corporate energy and quarterly cost review meetings.

The company compares performance among facilities and also benchmarks against comparable plants in the industry. To do this, the process energy team uses software analysis tools such as Energy Star's Energy Performance Indicator (EPI) benchmarking software, ITP's MotorMaster+ and Process Heating Assessment and Survey Tool (PHAST) from ITP's suite of BestPractices tools.

Specific Initiatives to Improve Processes

California Portland Cement has implemented several initiatives designed to boost performance in specific areas of its operation. The initiatives give the company a systematic approach to managing energy use and encourage best practices. The key initiatives include these:

  • Compressed air system improvements: The company has targeted compressed air as its first initiative in the program, because it offers the greatest savings opportunities of any utility but requires minimal capital costs and short payback periods. Work includes optimizing compressor operations, improving compressed air quality, reducing compressed air use and minimizing air leaks.
  • Electrical and lighting systems: Motor management and lighting retrofits are the primary activities in this initiative. All new motor replacements must meet the latest NEMA premium efficiency standards. Most of California Portland Cement's facilities have conducted lighting surveys, and many have completed lighting retrofit projects for plant offices, warehouses, laboratories and maintenance buildings. The latest lighting technologies, including fixtures, bulbs, motion sensors and photocells have been installed throughout the company.
  • Mechanical systems and drives: California Portland Cement plants proactively replace V-belts with cog or synchronous belts on motor drives. These new belts can be 3 percent to 5 percent more efficient than the V-belts. Heating, ventilating and cooling equipment optimization is also a part of this initiative.
  • Plant operations, engineering and maintenance: To help employees implement energy savings measures, guidelines have been distributed throughout the company. This includes written specifications to require energy-efficient equipment for all new installations and retrofit work. The company also has developed purchasing and inventory policies to ensure that new equipment meets energy specifications.
  • Awareness and education: California Portland Cement regards employee awareness as the most important initiative; it yields the best opportunities with the least investment. To keep employees informed, energy successes, tips and meeting minutes are communicated throughout the organization through e-mail, intranet, newsletters, bulletin boards and other methods. All around the facilities, posted signage reminds employees to be vigilant about reducing energy. The most effective signs are those that quantify practices that cause energy waste, such as air leaks. The company also offers employees training on various energy efficiency topics. Plant personnel have attended ITP BestPractices training and other training programs on compressed air, motor efficiency, process heating and lighting.

Incentives, Rebates and Resources that Target Opportunities

As its energy management program evolves, California Portland Cement is finding many ways to uncover savings and then implement energy projects. For example, in 2006, the Mojave, Calif., cement plant applied for and received a process heating Energy Savings Assessment offered by DOE as part of the Save Energy Now campaign. In 2004, the Rillito, Ariz., plant received a cost-shared award from DOE and is currently completing a plant-wide assessment. From these two opportunities alone, California Portland Cement has identified hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings opportunities.

To help make projects more feasible, California Portland Cement also takes advantage of utility rebates. In the past two years, the company has qualified for more than $1.3 million dollars in rebates and has used these funds to implement energy efficiency retrofits and process improvements such as installing a state-of-the-art vertical grinding mill and a new, high-efficiency separator on an existing ball grinding mill at the Mojave plant.

Results and Rewards

Having a formal program allows California Portland Cement to focus on specific energy opportunities and take advantage of the various resources available. In just three years, energy management practices have been institutionalized and are now part of standard operations.

As a result of these efforts, California Portland Cement has already received several local, state and national awards, including Energy Star's Partner of the Year Award in 2005 and 2006. The company is also reaping rewards in terms of savings; so far, they amount to more than $3 million in energy costs savings and a significant reduction in process emissions since the energy program was formed. Among the best rewards, however, is the sense of pride among employees that they have accomplished something that improves not only the bottom line but the environment, as well.

About the author:

Steve Coppinger has been with California Portland Cement Company for 20 years and is the company’s chief electrical engineer. He leads the corporate energy management program and was instrumental in starting it in 2003. Steve is a licensed professional engineer in the State of California. He actively participates in industry and energy professional committees, including IEEE, the Portland Cement Association and Energy Star's Cement Focus Group. He also serves on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Matters editorial advisory board.

This article appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Energy Matters, a publication from the United States Department of Energy. For more information, visit

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