Optimizing Steam, Utilities Efficiency in Food and Beverage

July 8, 2015 By Karen Henry

food processing Energy ManageThere are a number of strategies plant operators can use to optimize steam power and other plant utilities in the food and beverage industry, according to an article on the Food Processing website.

Accurate flow measurements result in reduced operating costs. However, monitoring and controlling steam flow can be challenging at low flow rates. When pressure falls below a certain point, differential pressure devices become less accurate. Spirax Sarco’s target variable area flow meter for saturated steam measurement overcomes this limitation. The plug-and-play unit has built-in density compensation for more accurate measurements. The unit also requires less space than an orifice plate flow meter.

The industry trend toward lower operating pressures means that fewer Btus are going up the stack and there is less waste heat to recapture. Reusing condensate can help compensate for this. Returning hot, pre-treated condensate to the boiler typically reduces energy inputs 15–16 percent.

Too much condensate, however, can result in water hammering, a potentially dangerous situation that increases maintenance costs. Hammering also can be an issue with compressed air, another plant utility. Compressed-air buffer tanks can eliminate hammering and drop system pressure, which can result in significant energy cost savings. Energy is still lost during machine unloading, so this approach is being increasingly replaced by variable speed drive compressors.

The vast majority of rotary screw air compressors in operation are oil-flooded, and while some food companies have standardized on oil-free, air-cooled compressors, oil-flooded units run cooler. The inherent inefficiency of air-cooled compressors can be lessened by adding a water bath.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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