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Green Innovations: New technologies that could transform how industry uses energy

As the world grows in both wealth and population, so will the demand for energy: global primary-energy consumption is on course to increase 25 percent between now and 2030. At the same time, concerns over pollution and climate change are forcing business and government to think hard about how they produce and use energy. Energy efficiency, which is sometimes called the “fifth fuel” (after coal, gas, nuclear, and renewables), can play an important role in helping the world meet its demand for power and mobility. With that in mind, here are the top 25 technologies that McKinsey & Company believes could transform how industry uses energy. These technologies combined together could save more than $600 billion a year!

Green manufacturing innovations

  1. Energy-Management System (EMS) – After implementing an EMS, a process plant in east Malaysia diagnosed issues with the air compressor, which was causing energy losses of 10%.
  2. Advanced Analytics – When a European chemical company used neural-network techniques to measure and compare the relative impact of different production inputs, it found a number of previously unseen sensitivities, such as levels of variability in carbon-dioxide flow. By resetting its parameters accordingly, the company reduced raw-material waste and energy costs.
  3. Smart Grids – In Europe, there are more than 450 smart-grid projects in operation.
  4. Immersion-cooling technology – An East Asian data center that employs this technology reported a 1.02 power-usage effectiveness, a figure that measures data-center energy efficiency, whereas most data centers are in the range of 1.50 to 1.70. This is well above average; the closer to 1.00, the more efficient the center.
  5. Liquid-desiccant systems – A global telecommunications company installed liquid-desiccant technology for its semiconductor-testing clean rooms. Compared to traditional cooling methods, the new technology helped cut heating and cooing lads by 60%.
  6. Pressurized-plenum-recirculation-air system – Several semiconductor fabs built in the last 10 years have employed this technology. A global semiconductor manufacturer based in Asia replicated its existing fab with he right next to it but used a pressurized-plenum system to reduce its recirculation-energy consumption by more than half.
  7. Fluidized-bed advanced-cement-kiln system (FAKS) – In 2005, China launched an experimental project for a 1,000-ton/day FAKS facility. The project cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 9%, compared to a conventional rotary kiln, and reduced power consumption.
  8. Combustion-system improvements (Gyrotherm) – A demonstration project in Australia found average fuel savings between 5 and 10%, as well as an increase in output of 10%. Another project in the United States recorded 3 to 6% energy savings and increased output of 5 to 9%.
  9. High-efficiency grate coolers (reciprocating) – In China, a 3,000-ton-per-day plant installed reciprocating-grate coolers and cut energy consumption by 100 terajoules.
  10. Improved preheating/precalcining – A plant in the United States replaced its preheater by multistage preheaters and precalcining, and saved 28 gigajoules (GJ)/ton of clinker. An Italian plant retrofitted preheating and precalcining to a long dry kiln, and saved 1.2 GJ/ton of clinker.
  11. Automated-compressor-staging and capacity-control systems – When an Ohio-based dairy producer automated the control systems to its refrigeration plant, the upgrade saved 25% on refrigeration electricity and also improved markedly system productivity.
  12. Variable-head-pressure controls (VHPC) – A frozen vegetable plant in Australia saved 10% on electricity by installing VHPCs in combination with variable-speed drives.
  13. Direct-contact water heaters – After a food processor in Minnesota installed a direct-contact water heater, it saw more consistent water flow and lower gas consumption.
  14. Automated-mine-ventilation control and air reconditioning – A Canadian mine installed a ventilation-on-demand system to complement its existing one, and saved 40% on ventilation energy.
  15. High-pressure grinding rolls (HPGRs) – An academic compared an existing SAG mill-based circuit with an HPGR-based circuit for a Canadian mine. The HPGR circuit recorded 21% less energy consumption.
  16. In-pit crushing-conveyance (IPCC) and high-angle-conveyance (HAC) systems – When a South American copper mine installed a movable in-pit-crushing system, it saw 30% total cost savings, including reducing the truck fleet by 25%.
  17. Low-loss conveyor belts – By switching from steel to aramid fibers, a Bulgarian power plant cut the weight of the 2.6-kilometer-long conveyor belt by a third, saving about 18% in energy costs.
  18. Stirred-media mills – When a gold mine in Chile implemented a stirred-media mill, the new setup proved 30% more energy efficient than the 3-stage ball mill it replaced.
  19. Advanced-process control (APC) – An ammonia plant in Western Australia installed APC and boosted production while saving 0.1 gigajoules/ton.
  20. Member-gas separation – Several ammonia plants in China are using membrane technology to reduce energy costs in hydrogen separation.
  21. High-pressure recovery – A natural-gas plant in northern China that installed a high-pressure recovery system cut its power bill by 25% and a sizeable share of total energy consumption.
  22. Steam compressors – A chemical manufacturer in Western Europe used compressors to generate 9,000 tons of steam a year; it paid back the cost of the investment in less than 2 years.
  23. Ultra-supercritical  (USP) plants – A USP plant in eastern China, which is considered the cleanest and most efficient globally, has achieved efficiencies of 46%.
  24. High-efficiency combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) – On a test run of a major (575-megawatt) plant, a German utility reached 61% efficiency, compared to an OECD average of about 34%. Plants of similar efficiency are also being built in South Korea.
  25. Trigeneration – A semiconductor fab in southern Europe has successfully implemented trigeneration; it produces electricity for run-process equipment, heating for environment control, and process-heat and chiller capacity for cooling.

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