For manufacturers in process industries such as pulp and paper, food and beverage, and steel, process optimization is an ongoing challenge to meet while satisfying defined process specifications and producing quality product on time. Just one part of the process failing will cause production delays and
can be catastrophic for the bottom line.
Whether due to aging infrastructure, unanticipated spikes in demand, or process bottlenecks associated with temperature-related issues, one issue currently plaguing the process industries pertains to the lack of supplemental support for critical cooling operations. Without a “Plan B,” processors face decreased productivity and revenue when an unforeseen operational issue arises. Many companies are investigating options to mitigate this risk. Temporary chiller solutions can:
- Support process facilities during times of increased demand, seasonal constraint, age-management maintenance or upgrades.
- Maintain required process temperatures during seasonal fluctuations.
- Supply cool air to motor control centers.
Portable chiller solutions allow processors to capture short-term market opportunities by avoiding delays in their production plans. In many situations, these customized temporary solutions also help manufacturers improve their balance sheet by avoiding high-cost capital expenditure (CAPEX) commitments on short- to mid-term duration needs.
When considering a temporary chiller system, it is important that the equipment matched the specific demands of the environment. Each manufacturing process is unique, so there is no such thing as one size fits all. For example, applications could include a water-cooled or air-cooled system, or low-temperature chillers designed to run at sub-zero temperatures.
It also is critical to work with a temporary utility provider that understands how to design a system that seamlessly ties into an industrial process — versus a nominal temperature application — to ensure continuity whether the need is for seasonal, supplemental or emergency cooling.
Processors worldwide are benefitting from the cost savings and operational efficiencies that temporary chiller solutions provide. Here are four ways temporary chillers were applied to restore process cooling and maintain productivity from both an economical and operational standpoint.
1. Address Limitations Due to Seasonal Changes
During a period of seasonally high temperatures, the quench tank water for one steel mill overheated and had to be replaced. The quench tank water replacement process occurred on a regular basis and repeatedly brought production to a standstill, resulting in millions of dollars of lost production during each instance.
The steel, which can exceed 2000°F (1093°C), required cool water from the tank to quench the sheets after they had been processed. The spray water typically was circulated back into the tank for reuse.
From May through November, the summer temperatures combined with the high temperature of the steel when it entere the quench tank made it difficult to keep the quench tank temperature below 82°F (28°C). The steel mill collaborated with a temporary equipment supplier to review the process and develop a cooling solution that would control quench tank temperatures year-round.
The temporary equipment supplier’s technical specialists worked with the steel mill’s engineers to design a cooling solution consisting of two chillers, two cooling towers, electrical transformers and distribution. The chillers tied to the mill’s permanent control system, allowing the steel mill team to consistently monitor temperatures and flow rates, ramping cooling capacity up or down depending upon demand. The solution allowed the mill to control and conserve electricity output depending upon current demand. The custom design reduced the water temperature below the high limit of 82°F (28°C), and the steel mill maintained production, thus avoiding costly downtime.
The following year, the temporary process cooling equipment supplier reengineered the system to improve flow rates — from 3,000 gallons per minute to 4,500 gallons per minute — by adjusting piping to make up for capacity. The steel mill put in a second production line and produced twice the quantity of steel while continuing to cool the process with the temporary chilling system. This resulted in 50 percent operational improvement and increased capacity by 100 percent.
2. Maintain Required Temperatures to Capture Windows of Opportunity
A major pharmaceutical manufacturer required a limited production run of a drug for use in a two-month clinical trial. The project was falling behind schedule and facing possible capital outlays. The pharmaceutical plant’s high capacity chilled-water system was not equipped to handle the smaller variable loads or the lower chilled glycol requirements (25°F [-4°C]).
One temporary equipment supplier provided a short-term chiller system, including power, which was designed specifically for the load and temperature control requirements for drug production run. The system allowed the pharmaceutical manufacturer to meet its expected production deadline without having to incur unnecessary CAPEX investments.
3. Support Critical Utilities During Times of Increased Demand
A paper mill was facing major delays in production and potentially large revenue losses because of a sudden increase in production demand without having the necessary capital needed for an equipment upgrade. Unseasonably warm temperatures raised the temperature of the lake water used for bleach production above the ideal maximum bleach-process temperature of 45°F (7°C). For the plant to run efficiently, the mill required a temporary chiller system to reduce water temperature.
The temporary process cooling equipment supplier provided a temporary 500-ton water-cooled chiller system. The solution allowed the pulp-and-paper mill to achieve the desired inlet temperature, resuming production and successfully reaching production goals. The mill was able to keep production at full capacity, avoid capital outlay and increase production, which led to revenue increases of $10,000 per day.
4. Supply Emergency Conditioned Air to Hot Production Areas
Another pulp-and-paper mill lost a chiller and needed emergency backup to provide cooling for two motor control center (MCC) rooms at its plant. Temperatures above 85°F (29°C) or excessive relative humidity (RH) for 8 to 12 hours would force a shutdown due to overheating. If the MCC’s room equipment went offline, the associated loss of electrical and computer service to critical production equipment, machinery and computers would halt production, resulting in a loss of revenue.
Switchgear and servers housed in both MCC rooms required specific temperature and RH conditions — 75°F and 50 percent relative humidity — to operate. However, each cooling system was more than 20 years old and in grave need of repair. The mill required an immediate temporary solution to reduce the temperature and humidity conditions until each room’s air-conditioning system was replaced.
The temporary process cooling equipment supplier and the mill’s operations team developed a plan to install a temporary 30-ton system, including a chiller, air handler and all interconnecting piping and ductwork. The temporary chiller system successfully reduced the temperature and relative humidity conditions to needed levels, avoiding a possible shutdown and averting time and revenue losses.
In conclusion, the applications described are but a few examples of how temporary process cooling solutions help manufacturers mitigate operational hazards, minimize CAPEX spending and ensure optimal production uptime. The maximum benefit of these temporary systems can only be realized by partnering with a provider with the right technical, engineering and project management expertise to execute a customized and scalable turnkey solution for short- and long-term needs.