California Cement Company's Proactive Motor Management Translates to Real Savings

Skyrocketing energy prices, resulting from the 2000 crash of the California power market, were sapping profit margins at RMC Pacific Materials Cement Division of Davenport, Calif. The plant, which produces, grinds and ships cement to locations throughout California, faced a pressing need to lower its energy consumption and to update its facility's efficiency to remain profitable in the state's ...

07/01/2004


Skyrocketing energy prices, resulting from the 2000 crash of the California power market, were sapping profit margins at RMC Pacific Materials Cement Division of Davenport, Calif. The plant, which produces, grinds and ships cement to locations throughout California, faced a pressing need to lower its energy consumption and to update its facility's efficiency to remain profitable in the state's changing economy. In 2002, Greg Galvin began to implement RMC's energy management strategy, focusing on offsetting the increasing costs. Galvin had come to RMC a year earlier, bringing more than 10 years of experience in energy efficiency and power quality.

"With the 2000 power market crash, our rates effectively doubled," says Galvin. "Since you can't control energy prices, you need to reduce consumption instead."

While reviewing historical prices for repairs to the motors that power the grinding and shipping operations, Galvin saw how costly the process of rewinding the old motors would be. In fact, some were originally manufactured as early as the 1930s. He recognized the potential for the company to cut its energy consumption and reduce the need for expensive maintenance by replacing the older motors with new, energy-efficient models.

Galvin explains, "I saw that rewinding one of our motors would cost $22,000, while a new motor would be $25,000. I thought, for the extra $3,000, and the same amount of labor, why not buy the new, more efficient motor?" Futhermore, the new motor would continue to save the company money in reduced energy costs throughout its life.

The Davenport plant's vice president of operations was receptive to Galvin's proposal, particularly when he saw the estimates of the energy cost savings. Those savings were calculated using the motor manufacturer's Energy Savings Tool (B.E.$.T.) and MotorMaster software. Both tools are designed to help companies build a comprehensive motor inventory and to compare motor efficiencies.

Pacific Gas and Electric, the local utility, contributed to the feasibility of RMC Cement Division's motor plan through its standard performance contract, a California state-wide cash incentive program encouraging companies to put less pressure on the energy grid through lower energy consumption. Galvin applied for the contract successfully, and the $110,000 rebate reduced RMC's return on investment on the new motors to six or seven months.

As Galvin and the motor manufacturer's representatives began to integrate the new motors into the facility, Galvin installed six power meters to monitor power consumption in each area of the plant. According to Galvin, the impact of the new motors was immediately noticeable: Energy usage decreased substantially. Other benefits also became apparent.

"Older motors with open, drip-proof frames get filled with dirt, dust and water, and everything else you can think of," Galvin says. "We are right on the coast, so there is a lot of salt air and moisture. With the new motors, the maintenance cost was cut in half, at least, as they are enclosed and do not need to be taken out every few years to be cleaned and refurbished." The non-energy benefits of such motor management include important factors like less plant downtime due to reduced motor maintenance.

Galvin used the metric of energy consumption per ton of cement ground and per ton shipped to illustrate the decreasing energy demands resulting from the new motors. When RMC joined the Energy Star program, program personnel were pleased with the Cement Division's proactive approach to energy management. Galvin, as RMC's Energy Star representative, joined other cement producers in an Energy Star focus on improving energy efficiency in the cement industry. With Energy Star, the companies are supporting development of an industry benchmark for cement plant energy efficiency and other energy-management tools.

RMC Pacific Materials Cement Division's forward-thinking energy strategy has already resulted in savings of 3.1 million kWh, which represents a 15% reduction in energy consumption. The strategy has also decreased plant downtime, sending a positive message to clients, as well as bolstering RMC's profitability. A corporation-wide energy-management plan is currently in the works since the cement division's strategy has been so successful.

In today's unpredictable energy market, where prices may remain high or climb further, now may be the perfect time for companies to consider their motor management strategies, as RMC has done.

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