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Energizing Your Company's Energy Program

Honored Contributor
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Sharon Nolen, PE, CEM
Manager, Eastman’s Worldwide Energy Program

nolen.pngAt Eastman, we believe sustainability is about creating more value than the resources we consume, and we focus our efforts in three key areas - creating “productivity” value through more efficient use of resources, creating “innovative” value through our sustainable products, and creating “shared” value through corporate responsibility-focused stakeholder engagement. As a Responsible Care® company, we have focused on creating “productivity” value through continual improvement in the areas of environmental, health, safety and security for more than 25 years, but we really put structure around sustainability as a corporate initiative in 2010 with the establishment of our Sustainability Council. At that time, we published a variety of near-, mid- and long-term sustainability goals that encompassed all three commonly recognized aspects of sustainability – economic growth, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. As the company’s size, business structure and corporate strategy continue to evolve, our sustainability strategy and Council also continue to evolve, and we have streamlined our goals into a ‘scorecard’ of aspirational goals intended to drive continuous improvement.

A key environmental goal at Eastman is to reduce energy intensity 20 percent by 2020 compared to a 2008 baseline, and to date, we have moved the needle by nine percent. However, energy efficiency is nothing new to Eastman. We’ve operated a combined heat and power (CHP) plant at our largest site in Kingsport, Tenn., since the 1920s. Also known as cogeneration, CHP represents the concurrent production of electricity and heat emanating from a single source, recovering heat that would typically be wasted during electricity generation. Due to the integrated nature of our manufacturing facilities, waste heat from one chemical process can be used for heat within a different chemical process.

Currently, we convert more than 70% of the energy we obtain from fossil fuel into power and steam for our manufacturing processes. We are highly motivated to focus on energy efficiency for many reasons. Internal and external studies show that energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to address greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, energy efficiency supports several Eastman initiatives beyond sustainability. For example, improved lighting results in safer conditions in day-to-day operations; longer-life light bulbs reduce the amount of time that employees spend at elevated heights changing bulbs. Repairing steam leaks minimizes drips and icicles in the winter making walkways safer. Improved efficiency supports Eastman’s productivity initiatives to reduce costs.

Making the most of available resources
POY_SustainedExcellence_2016lg.pngSo while we’ve spent decades looking at energy efficiency, several changes resulted in improvements to our energy program over the past several years. Following the ENERGY STAR® Guidelines for Energy Management, we identified gaps in the existing program. ENERGY STAR supplies examples of how other companies have filled these gaps. Eastman also benchmarked with other companies and used other available ENERGY STAR tools, such as the Green Team Checklist and Portfolio Manager. Eastman’s energy intensity measure follows the Department of Energy guidelines. Oak Ridge National Lab engineers participated in a review of Eastman’s measure and found it to be sound. Networking among industry groups provides opportunities to learn best practices. All of these resources proved valuable as we revamped the program and have continued to implement new processes and best practices.

Gaining support from the top
Management support at the highest levels made a big difference in the energy program. For example, an executive team member leads the Design and Natural Resources Sustainability Sub-council, which serves as a liaison between the energy program and the Sustainability Council. As a Certified Energy Manager, I lead our worldwide energy team full time. The team drives initiatives and improvement opportunities at the site and company level. We’ve also increased employee engagement, expanded data analysis, standardized energy surveys, and incorporated energy efficiency into design, which have led to great results.

Engaging employees to drive change
To engage employees, we use the company newsletter, energy events, and internal Green Teams to provide information on how to save energy at home and at work. We believe that if our employees are thinking more about energy efficiency at home, that will carry over into the workplace. We’ve also successfully tackled building efficiency. Several of our office buildings are now enrolled in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and have become ENERGY STAR Certified. While office buildings are a small part of Eastman’s energy footprint, we find participating in programs such as the ENERGY STAR Battle of the Buildings and informing building occupants of their Portfolio Manager Score and improvements they can make pay dividends beyond the individual buildings. Since decision makers are often housed in these types of buildings, the monthly communications on building performance and improvements seen (>25% in most cases) build credibility for the energy program.

Developing processes and standards
We firmly believe that our employees want to make the right decisions but cannot do so unless they have the right information. Since 2010, we have standardized our energy measure, shortened the frequency of reporting and developed models to normalize for production and weather. The latest improvement is the development of interactive tools available to anyone that allow the user to track energy trends for any site or area of interest for any time frame.  We continue to work toward greater frequency and availability of energy information to allow manufacturing to address issues as they arise. 

We have also developed a process to survey manufacturing areas for energy efficiency improvements. The survey primarily focuses on the utilities systems and manufacturing areas are continually identifying projects that can reduce energy use. For example, an energy assessment was performed on one of Eastman’s larger distillation units to determine the feasibility of doing additional heat integration with the unit. Savings would come from additional heat transferred to the column feed. It was determined that improving the feed heater design would allow operations to recover additional heat, improve reliability and increase capacity on the distillation unit. The project involved redesigning the interchanger to avoid large pressure drops and allow for more heat transfer capacity.

Because Eastman has had an energy program for many years, many of the current activities and initiatives are not completely new. Building energy efficiency into design is a good example. While there have always been engineers who did so, there was not a standardized approach for the process. Eastman now has a checklist that prompts every design engineer for specified projects over a certain dollar value to think about energy efficiency for all aspects of design throughout the project. 

Overcoming challenges
With any major program or initiative, there are always challenges. During the last six years, Eastman has grown through acquisition. When I became the energy manager in 2010, there were eight manufacturing sites in the program. There are now 22 of Eastman’s approximately 50 manufacturing sites in the program, and we are continually working to include new sites.

Finding the right balance between our large and small sites is also a challenge. Eastman’s energy footprint is dominated by our two largest facilities in Kingsport, Tenn., and Longview, Texas. It would be easy to focus all of our energy efficiency resources on those two sites. However, we understand the value of a company-wide program. Energy improvements at a small site may look minor when compared to Eastman’s total energy use but can be quite significant to the profitability and even longevity of a small site. Another layer to that is the fact that our two largest sites have been working on energy efficiency for many years. A lot of the low hanging fruit has already been addressed. So making improvements that significantly move the needle without significant costs can be a challenge. 

Staying energized
As you can see, we didn’t “flip a switch” and make energy efficiency happen overnight at Eastman. It has taken many years and a lot of hard work by many talented people to bring us to this point. My advice to other companies looking to make improvements is to get your employees involved. Encourage them to submit ideas and have a system for capturing those ideas. Even ideas that don’t look economically attractive now are worth saving for the future when energy costs might be greater and a carbon tax could affect economics. Take advantage of networking opportunities to learn what other companies are doing. Companies in very different industries can provide great ideas on employee engagement, project tracking, or reinforcement. Partner with internal organizations. Although it’s obvious that a good working relationship with manufacturing is imperative, others may not be so obvious. Engineering can incorporate energy efficiency into design, procurement can purchase energy efficient equipment and communications can publicize awards. Finally, link into existing company initiatives like safety and productivity. Show how energy efficiency can be integrated into and support existing programs.

Ultimately, we have to remember that sustainability and improving our energy efficiency is a continuous journey. It won’t happen overnight and the work is never complete, but with goal-setting, measurement, and engagement, industries and companies can make a positive difference.

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