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  • g o v e r n m e n t & p o l i c y

    GETTING A GRIP ON WASTED ENERGY DOE identifies six chemical industry process chains as key to cutting energy use

    Jeff Johnson C&EN Washington

    I n a single year, the U.S. chemical in-dustry burns up about 6 quadrillion Btu of energy. That works out to 7% of all domestic energy used and 25% of the energy used in all manufacturing, says a new report by the Department of Energy.

    Making the chemical sec-tor more energy efficient and cutting its $29 billion annual energy bill is the goal of a DOE program under which the report was prepared.

    "Energy & Environmental Profile of the U.S. Chemical Industry" was developed by the DOE Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT), which will use the report to guide de-cisionmakers in better deter-mining which energy-reduc-ing projects should be funded through DOE's large grant-making program.

    Lou Sousa, OITs director of commu-nication, says the data and report will serve as a benchmark for energy use in the chemical industry. The report also provides pollution emissions data based on several Environmental Protection Agency emissions reports. But its main focus is on energy.

    The report is actually a compilation of federal, trade association, and industry-specific information, Sousa says, noting that the report was peer reviewed by in-dustry engineers before being released.

    OIT spends about $170 million a year in 50-50 matching grants to nine indus-trial sectors for pilot projects that cut en-ergy use as well as reduce pollution, according to Sousa. The nine areas steel, aluminum, metal casting, forest products, glass, mining, agriculture, chemicals, and petroleumare high en-ergy users and are critical to the U.S. and world economy. Energy-use analy-ses, like the new one for chemical com-

    panies, have been completed for four other sectors, Sousa notes, among them petroleum refining.

    Last year, OIT conducted its second round of grants for chemical industry projects and provided about $11 million

    Most energy use for chemical processes is from six chemical chains

    Agricultural fertilizers Ethylene Benzene/toluenefcylene Caustics Propylene Butadiene


    Energy use* (trillion Btu per year)

    424 406 400 291

    80 45

    1,646 3,034

    % process energy use

    14.0% 13.4 13.2 9.6 2.6 1.5

    54.3% 100%

    Note: Chemical chains include all associated derived products from a primary starting compound, a 1997 estimates. Source: Department of Energy

    in matching funds for eight chemical in-dustry-related, three-year projects. The projects covered four areasmaterials of construction, separations, catalysis, and computational chemistryand all were tightly tied to manufacturing " processes.

    For example, one project funds development of a new material iron aluminidethat holds out the hope of eliminating soot and carbon formation from ethylene furnace tubes, which is a major cause of plant shutdowns, according to DOE (C&EN, Jan. 3, page 17).

    The new report will better hone OIT decisions. It identifies six chem-ical production processes that have the greatest opportunity for energy-use reductions. These are processes to make and use ethylene, pro-pylene, benzene-toluene-xylene (BTX), butadiene, agricultural chemicals/fertilizers, and caustics.

    The report refers to them as chains, and estimates that these

    processes consume 1,646 trillion Btu a year, about half of the total process en-ergy used by the chemical industry.

    Using ethylene as an example, the chain idea works like this: Nearly half of ethylene production is feedstock for polyethylene, one of the most highly used plastics. Ethylene also is used to manufacture ethylene dichloride, which is used for polyvinyl chloride, as well as ethylene oxide, which is used for ethyl-ene glycol and polyester, the report notes.

    The report provides data on energy use and production for these three prod-ucts that spring from ethylene. Also pre-sented are process flow charts and text detailing manufacturing processes for

    each of these product chains, with an emphasis on energy used and wasted.

    Looking at three of the oth-er chains in the report, agri-cultural chemicals account for the most total energy con-sumed, primarily for ammonia production, which is a low-yield, inefficient process, the report says. Propylene, on the other hand, produces large amounts of chemical products with relatively little energy con-sumption, according to DOE's analysis. For the BTX chain, production of ethyl benzene and styrene account for the largest amount of energy con-

    sumed, most of which is attributed to sty-rene production.

    The 220-page report attempts to ex-amine each of the process chains in-

    Organic chemical makers buy most fuel, electricity

    Soaps & cleaners Other

    3% 4% Pharmaceuticals

    lultural micals 9%

    Organic chemicals


    Plastics synthetics

    19% Inorganic chemicals 25%

    1997 chemical Industry spending on fuel and electricity * $29 billion

    Source: Department of Energy

    JULY 24,2000 C&EN 3 1

  • g o v e r n m e n t & p o l i c y Ws:^

    depth as well as provide generic infor-mation about chemical manufacturing. It notes, for instance, that most energy consumption is for production of organ-ic and inorganic chemicals.

    Among processes common to most of the chains, distillation and separation, steam cracking/reforming, and catalyt-ic oxidation are the biggest hitters in terms of consuming large amounts of energy, notes report author Joan Pel-legrino, a researcher and consultant working for Energetics Inc., Columbia, Md., which prepared the report.

    To identify the chains where the greatest energy-reduction opportunities exist, Pellegrino says, she relied in large part on a study by Argonne National Laboratory that compared theoretical minimum energy requirements needed to produce 31 of the 50 highest volume chemicals made in the U.S.

    That study, however, was published in 1991, Pellegrino notes, and is getting old. It is being updated, she says, in a report being prepared by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, which will be in-corporated into DOE's analysis. Informa-

    tion from all these reports must be tem-pered with a good dose of reality.

    For instance, despite energy ineffi-ciencies, a company is unlikely to tear down a large distillation facility that has been in long and untroubled use, she says. Instead, when process equipment is due to be changed, companies look more favorably on changes that result in better energy efficiency.

    In that sense, the report may serve as a guide when chemical engineers are making process modifications and capi-tal spending decisions, Pellegrino and Sousa say. In particular, it can be used as a tool for comparison since it supplies energy-use figures by process, allowing engineers to examine a specific compa-ny's energy use and compare it to a the-oretical consumption range.

    Along with the process information, the report couples data on economics, energy consumption, and environmen-tal emissions for the chemical industry. The information was culled from scat-tered sources in the Commerce and En-ergy Departments, the American Chem-istry Council, EPA, and elsewhere.

    The report shows that the chemical industry produces 70,000 different prod-ucts, yet most of them are not highly vis-ible since they serve as feedstocks for other products. In fact, about 30% of chemical products are raw materials for other manufacturers, and the chemical industry itself consumes 24% of the chemicals it makes.

    The U.S. is the world's largest chem-ical producer, accounting for 25% of the $1.5 trillion global chemical market, ac-cording to the report. The U.S. is the second largest exporter of chemicals, behind Germany, and the U.S. exports about 15% of total world trade.

    Overall, the chemical industry has made significant improvements in en-ergy efficiency over the past two de-cades, the report says. Energy consumed for heat and power per unit of produc-tion output declined by more than 39% between 1974 and 1995, a trend the re-port says began with the oil crisis of 1973.

    However, since the late 1980s efficien-cy improvements have been flat, primari-ly because of the availability of inexpen-


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  • sive energy for heat and power, the report says. When energy prices are low, the report stresses, cap-ital investments for energy efficiencies are far less at-tractive than investments made to increase market share.

    Indeed, Pellegrino says industries want a two-year payback on capital invest-ments, and money spent for energy improvements may look good economi-cally on its own but can fall flat when compared with other economically driven investments.

    The same problem has plagued capital investments for pollution prevention, which was demonstrated at a large project at Dow Chemicars Midland, Mich., facility. At Dow, a detailed exami-nation of plant processes found several projects that would cut sizable amounts of waste and emissions as well as offer an average annual rate of return of 180% on

    Chemical industry output has risen 75% as energy use per unit has fallen Index 1974 =100 200

    the investment to clean them up. But the improvements had been ignored because they were too small and insignificant to be given a priority by corporate engi-neers (C&EN, Sept. 13,1999, page 22).

    Chemical industry energy improve-ments achieved over the past two de-cades came from aggressive energy management and housekeeping pro-

    grams, the report says, which were instituted in the 1970s. They are now in-tegral parts of operations at many firms. Among im-provements were cogener-ation projects where ener-gy is generated through manufacturing processes, the report says. In some sectors, such as the manu-facture of organic chemicals and phosphate fertilizers, electricity cogeneration matches levels of purchased power.

    But the report says most of the low-cost, high-return energy investments have

    been made. Further gains will require more dramatic changes in process de-sign and in innovative R&D solutions, such as projects funded through indus-try-government collaborations.

    The report is available through the OIT Resource Center at (202) 586-2090. More information is available on the In-ternet ( M

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    P H Y T O C H E M I C A L S

    Industry output

    Fuel use per unit of output







    60 40 1974 78 78 8U 82 84 83 88 Wt 9d SW W

    Source: Department of Energy, American Chemistry Council


    government & policyGETTING A GRIP ONWASTED ENERGY