Energy Efficiency as a Tool for Effective Maintenance

Energy Efficiency (EE) is one of the major contributors to environmental sustainability. In this article, our partner Trilateral Research addresses the importance of energy efficiency in the maintenance of industrial equipment.

As energy resources have gradually become more limited and more expensive, proper maintenance of industrial equipment has become a significant yardstick in measuring competitiveness and environmental impact.

For a long time, the status quo with regard to industrial maintenance involved ignoring the asset (equipment, machinery or infrastructure) as long as it was functional in order to maximise productivity.

While this provided savings in the form of reduced maintenance expenses, low early asset replacement costs and revenue from continued production, it ensured that energy usage was significantly increased. A good example of this is the offshore wind turbine gearbox. Given its size and proximity to other wind turbine components, performing maintenance actions such as repair or replacement have proven quite difficult and expensive. This incentivises wind turbine operators to keep the gearbox running well past the point of maintenance.

EERAdata is addressing the challenge of gathering evidence on the impacts of investments in energy efficiency in the context of European building stock, in an effort to promote its integration in the policy-making process. The future outlook of the project sees a wider adoption of energy efficiency both at the development and operating phases of the asset lifecycle.

How do we ensure effective maintenance of industrial assets?

We can ensure adequate maintenance through effective asset integrity management. Asset integrity refers to the ability of an asset to perform its intended functions while protecting the wellbeing of all personnel, equipment and environment it interacts with. Asset integrity management, simply put, is the system put in place by organisations to ensure asset integrity.

Asset integrity management as a discipline has come a long way since its emergence in the ’80s. Initially, it involved performing maintenance activities after a fault or failure has been discovered, also known as corrective maintenance. Over time, as operators began to search for better approaches, it evolved into time-based maintenance, which involves activities performed at pre-determined intervals to avoid failure. This strategy, however, was discovered to be quite expensive as maintenance is usually performed when it’s not needed and, in some cases, compromises the asset’s performance even more. For example, if an offshore production equipment is taken onshore for testing, this inherently costs extra money in the form of maintenance costs and puts a strain on overall production. For this reason, multiple industries have moved more toward performing maintenance activities based only on the condition of an asset, widely referred to as condition-based maintenance (CBM).

CBM has been adopted at different levels within different industries. While it is more established in non-renewable energy, automotive and aerospace industries, it is in its infancy in emerging industries such as offshore oil and gas and offshore wind energy.

Asset Integrity and Energy Efficiency

While the CBM strategy has grown in popularity and use over time, energy consumption is an important aspect that requires more consideration. The amount of energy consumed by any asset depends on how much wear it has experienced, and this can vary over time. Energy Efficiency (EE) is one of the major contributors to environmental sustainability and should therefore be considered a key performance indicator for the CBM strategy. Energy efficiency simply means the ability to perform any design, production, maintenance or decommissioning activity with less amounts of energy in order to eliminate waste and save money. Energy efficiency measures set out by the European Union cut across all phases of the energy value chain from production and industrial use to final consumption in buildings. Integrating EE into CBM can be done using a metric known as the energy efficiency index (EEI), which is defined as the amount of energy that has to be consumed in order to produce one useful output unit.

The conventional metrics for determining an asset’s condition include its level of degradation and productivity. The case can be made for including EEI due to a number of advantages it has over the conventional metrics. Firstly, given that the overall aim of asset integrity management is to ensure adequate performance while protecting life, equipment and environment, EEI can be suitably applied as a measure of fulfilment of strategic business goals, as it is easier to translate into financial and environmental terms. Secondly, technology and systems for monitoring energy performance are readily available and are easier to install, maintain and retrieve information from.

Energy efficiency is recognised as one of the pillars of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative by the UN. It is therefore critical that it be integrated into the asset management process within different industries through CBM.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 847101