Fuel type key to success

An image of AES commercial director Dennis Williams

DENNIS WILLIAMS Any opportunity to manage the efficient generation and supply of energy carriers, such as steam or thermal oil, presents an opportunity to improve efficiencies in a chemical plant’s main production process, owing to chemical plants being energy intensive

11th August 2023

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer


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Amid ongoing power outages and energy constraints, new approaches to fuel selection and efficiency among chemical plants have become necessary, says boiler and energy plant operations and maintenance service provider Associated Energy Services (AES) commercial director Dennis Williams.

Any opportunity to manage the efficient generation and supply of energy carriers, such as steam or thermal oil, presents an opportunity to improve efficiencies in a chemical plant’s main production process, as chemical plants are energy intensive.

He adds that existing facilities have often been established around plant and equipment, which have either been adjusted, updated or morphed from an original plant.

Owing to time or cost constraints, the evolution of energy use has not facilitated an overall review of energy stream integration and best practice.

While South Africa’s large thermal energy users have traditionally relied on coal or heavy residual fuels, owing to cost and availability, Williams advises that there is an opportunity to optimise these systems and enable them to reduce carbon intensity and improve efficiency.

Hence, AES facilitates the application of plant management methodologies and oversight to create benefits for clients.

“Optimising the plant and providing efficiently generated thermal energy allows for process plant improvement opportunities, particularly in terms of the stable thermal energy quality afforded and the reliability of energy supply from AES.

“Availability of plant and reliability of thermal energy supply can be achieved only with significant focus and expertise. This is what AES does and guarantees under its service level agreements (SLA),” says Williams.

AES’s operating, design and technology experience in providing alternative energy solutions for chemical plant clients includes emission optimisation, fuel switching and novel thermal energy plant configurations to streamline and update thermal energy plants.

“The overall strategic objectives that a client wishes to address are the main criteria when it comes to defining an approach. AES can tailor project and operational solutions to best support these objectives by providing workable and deliverable outcomes with performance guarantees.”

What to Consider
Williams posits that the client’s strategic goals and objectives for the plant must be considered when selecting the fuel type.

As a result, AES assesses various technology solutions, fuel options and plant configurations.

“Once a review has established the most suitable options, we can really leverage the maximum benefits from the plant configuration and operational approach to maximise efficiency of the system,” he says.

Williams assures that having AES as an expert ensures cost and availability deliverables.

The company has achieved ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001 certification.

“AES is, therefore, able to focus on the plant in a way that most clients would simply not have the time or skills to do,” he enthuses.

Williams warns, however, that incorrect fuel selection poses three potential risks: supply interruption, cost management, and incompatibility between the energy plant and a particular fuel.

Hence, various factors need to be considered when selecting the appropriate fuel type.

Firstly, clients need to establish pricing mechanisms and have suitably defined and appropriate pricing adjustment mechanisms included in their supply contract.

In this way, companies can reduce the risk of dealing with issues pertaining to the potential development of a monopoly of fuel supply, owing to uncontrolled price adjustments, Williams says.

Clients are encouraged to ensure a continual supply guarantee by having access to alternative energy sources and fuel types to avoid supply constraints.

Lastly, technological solutions must be suited to the relevant fuel type, with Williams warning that incorrect fuel specification definition upfront can lead to efficiency and reliability issues, as well as complete plant failure, in a worst case scenario.

Hence, the fuel must be carefully analysed and the plant must be selected or modified to match the typical plant specifications and any expected variances which may occur during plant operations.

Williams states that AES’s business model focuses on energy operations and supply, as well as the energy plant, including steam and power projects, and aims to mitigate risk and provide the desired client outcomes.

“We provide a full-circle opportunity for a project specified and executed by AES, with performance guarantees to be taken over for operation by AES, with the associated efficiency and performance-related guarantees built into the operational SLA.”

Williams says this is a significant benefit over a standard project execution, where the contractor leaves site post project completion, and it is left to the client to achieve the ongoing plant performance promised by the project entity.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor




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