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Service provider helps plants improve efficiency

DENNIS WILLIAMS
It is critical to assist clients in understanding where a thermal energy offering can fit into their site energy mix

DENNIS WILLIAMS It is critical to assist clients in understanding where a thermal energy offering can fit into their site energy mix

12th May 2023

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer

     

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The drive towards reducing carbon footprints while remaining sustainable and profitable operationally and financially has become a priority for the manufacturing and industrial sectors.

Within this context, operations and maintenance service provider AES has “become the go-to company for plants to optimise their energy generation and operations while diversifying energy resources, improving energy plant operations and reducing carbon footprints”, says AES director Dennis Williams.

The fuel-, solutions- and technology-agnostic company guides manufacturers in a variety of vertical sectors, providing bespoke solutions for clients and operating across multiple sites.

Coal, for example, is expected to remain a key source of energy in South Africa for the next decade.

AES, however, offers a range of fuel procurement options, including coal, liquid fuels, natural gas and biomass, to optimise efficiency and futureproof energy plants. AES is highly selective about the quality of fuel it provides and leverages regional opportunities, such as piped gas, for optimal solutions.

The company also explores new energy streams, such as assisting a client with a feasibility assessment of an organic by-product project, to generate bioethanol fuel and support sustainable production.

“We place significant importance on technology to create control systems that can be incorporated into a new-build for a client or retrofitted to manage the plant as optimally as possible,” Williams says.

The company’s remote monitoring system (RMS) facilitates significant technological input into the operation of the plant, enabling AES to collect data through multiple streams.

This data is then collated and analysed to optimise plant operations and performance going forward. Clients also get access to RMS for their analysis and monitoring purposes.

This offering is critical to the specific performance of an energy plant, which, for example, has an impact on the plant’s overall uptime and bottom line.

“We provide a performance guarantee for our clients, related to the thermal energy supply, and this forms the basis of the service level agreements,” Williams notes, adding that AES manages the energy operations of a client – including staff members and plant assets –offering key resource and skills improvement.

“Employee training is essential to AES, which provides skills in the implementation of best practices regarding thermal energy systems and combustion. Our aim is to not only train employees to work optimally from a technical perspective but also inculcate AES’s ethos, ethics and culture,” he comments.

Having ensured that the correct AES people are in place on site – or else having trained and developed the client’s on-site staff who have transferred to AES – the company is in an even stronger position to improve energy plant processes.

AES has a successful training system, with regional training officers and proprietary training manuals. All its plant operations team members hold valid operations certificates and receive yearly refresher-course training. Training levels depend on the site’s complexity and are reviewed regularly.

AES’s solutions and processes allow for a reduction in fuel consumption, compared with the initial baseline.

These changes lead to a bottom line improvement in operational costs and profitability, with an additional knock-on effect on sustainability overall because of the improvement in efficiencies, he adds.

AES is not an energy consulting middleman, however, it can provide information and advice about the energy required for a manufacturing plant or facility, including electricity.

 

This includes an evaluation of the required capital and operational expenditure.

Asset Care

Operational uptime is critical, and it is therefore imperative to minimise operational shutdowns as far as possible. This aim – to minimise shutdowns – is linked to the asset care status of the plant, which in turn is key to AES’s operations, Williams explains.

To this effect, AES has developed its own asset management system (AMS), to collect data which allows for the population of a database applicable to each thermal plant. The AMS is further enhanced by the team’s expertise, and is optimised using learnings and site observations gathered from its many operational sites around the country.

AES has a multinational client in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, where it managed to secure a pilot project for one of the client’s operational sites in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Williams explains that AES was able to make changes by adding an additional boiler, which allowed the client to stop using heavy furnace oil as fuel.

As a result of these and operational changes, AES was able to achieve a 21% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while simultaneously reducing energy costs on-site.

Thereafter, AES secured the opportunity to work on the client’s largest site in South Africa, where it was able to achieve a 35% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Following on from these successes, AES now operates at five of the client’s sites across the country.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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