The industrial sector is a huge energy consumer. Manufacturers in the EU are responsible for 28% of the total energy demand in the Union. Despite this fact, energy consumption was not being considered as a key factor when the initial design of many industrial production processes took place. However, given the current context of scarcity of resources and increasing prices, manufacturers’ behaviour is changing as they show a growing interest in monitoring and improving the energy efficiency of their processes. Additionally, considering climate change challenges, the application of ecological damage-reducing techniques to industrial energy consumption patterns is often crucial to minimize the environmental impact of a product’s life cycle. Unfortunately, there are neither standard methodologies nor tools that focus on energy efficiency when defining new production processes. Moreover, fine-tuning already existing processes so as to reduce their energy demand is currently expensive.
With a consortium grouping 4 research institutions, 2 IT providers and 3 industrial partners, coordinated by TECNALIA (Spain) and funded under the FP7-ICT, the project addresses these issues by providing a generic methodology and IT tools that focus on the energy efficient design of production processes. The outputs are designed to be integrated in already existing process design tools. These have been conceived as generic and flexible tools so they can be applied no matter the technology behind the production process. The project started in February 2010 and will reach final conclusions by January 2013.
The project intends to deliver outputs to optimize energy consumption of production processes. These outputs are divided into two main blocks: a generic methodology and ICT modules. As the methodology is generic, an important adaptation work will be necessary to address each particular case. On the one hand, the methodology focus on how to optimally take into account energy efficiency issues within product/process design in production industry. On the other hand, the five ICT modules complement already existing process design tools. They cooperate and interact with the common objective of maximizing energy efficiency: (i) Energy Dependency Selector, (ii) Energy Monitoring Setup, (iii) Energy Analyzer, (iv) Energy Simulator and (v) Knowledge Repository.
First, the Energy Dependency Selector is a pre-design stage module and supports the analysis, benchmarking, and selection of producing technologies/methods, parts, equipment and materials to meet process/product specifications and energy efficiency.
Second, the Energy Monitoring Setup supports design/selection of measurement systems to ensure energy efficiency during life cycle operation of the installed production process, and to provide knowledge needed for enhanced design of products and processes.
Third, the Energy Analyzer enables mathematical data analysing, multifactor and multivariable optimization of energy efficiency of installations. Its main functionality will be to provide suggestions on how to configure the studied process in the most energy efficient manner.
Fourth, the Energy Simulator simulates the energy usage and quantifies the effects of flexible production and different configurations of equipment in the designed processes.
Finally, the Knowledge Repository enables data exchange between the other ICT modules and the storage of knowledge on energy use patterns.
Whereas the outputs are generic, the project focuses on energy intensive industries for demonstration. Both the methodology and tools are used within a prototype to be tested. At the end of the project, a demonstrator for three industrial business cases is expected in three different production environments: mould cooling systems, heat treatment of steel castings and air compressor solutions.
The outcomes of the project allow reducing costs and environmental impact of industrial processes. They are suitable for manufacturers who want to minimize and monitor the energy consumption of new production processes. End-users are process design engineers. The maturity level of each demonstrator is different because, depending on the techniques behind the production processes, the complexity of the tools adjustment can differ widely. Therefore, as the project is still running and its outputs are not complete yet, the technology readiness level is currently estimated to be 5 on the TRL scale. The consortium is already in touch with the necessary expertise for commercial exploitation. Nevertheless, any industrial company willing to apply the energy efficient methods and tools will be welcomed.