How Textile Sector can effectively manage its energy security?

Shahin Azad, Chief of Technical and Sales, XOLAREN
Photo: Shahin Azad, Chief of Technical and Sales, XOLAREN

Author: Shahin Azad(M.ECon, M.Sc(DU),BSc(EEE, BUET). Chief of Technical and Sales, XOLAREN Certified Energy Auditor, AEE, USA, and former Electrical Chief of Accord.

Energy security is the hot talk these days due to so many reasons. Recent nationwide frequent power outage with no schedule is a concern for all the factory owners in the industries.

Energy is the main driving wheel for the economic growth of a country; the more the availability of energy for the industries, the more scope for industrialization for a country for strengthening its economy. At the same time, for ensuring sustainable socio-economic growth of a country energy security plays a key role.

Bangladesh’s RMG sector has expanded exponentially in the last decade of the 20th century and the early decade of the 21st century. As the growth of each factory is completely dependent on the revenue earning, the expansion was made phase by phase since the operation starts; and from the past to today, the prime focus of each factory is ‘Production’.

When the revenue is good and expansion is the only focus of any production facility, it is not possible to focus on energy conservation, energy saving, and taking more and more initiatives to conserve energy. When the operation is stable and less/no expansion of business is made, the OPEX (Operational Expenditure) becomes a big challenge for any factory. At the same time, if the energy price goes up or the cost of raw materials for producing captive energy goes up, it becomes a nightmare for the factory management to manage the extra cost.

Nowadays ‘Energy’ is the most insecure resource for industries in Bangladesh. Among all the important industries, the textile industries are affected by this crisis severely- short-term and long-term losses are there due to this insecurity.

In industries energy is used in so many forms- electricity, and thermal are the two major forms of energy.

It is quite tough to consolidate all the possible ways how the industries can handle this insecurity to ensure a sustainable energy demand in the industries. We will try to cover all the areas very briefly (all these suggestions or guidelines are written here considering some standardized situation. In the practice, each factory is unique in terms of so many parameters than another one though all of them have so many things are common, and all these are shared considering each factory is in operation for quite a few years)

  1. To understand the volume of the expansion plan within the premise
  2. If the facility is saturated in consuming energy and there are barely any chances to increase the capacity within the same facility

We will discuss ‘Option 2’ first and explain ‘Option 1’ later on and definitely on a macro level rather than explaining on the Micro level.

To mitigate the energy crisis within the facility/factory either we can generate energy from different sources or start saving energy from the areas where the energy is wasted.

It is always wise to save one unit of electricity than generate one unit of electricity. There is a widely agreed statement among industrial professionals, ‘You can not  SAVE, until you ‘MEASURE’ it’.

If we talk about generating energy, we can produce energy either from

  • Renewable energy  (RE) sources- Solar, Wind, or Biomass, or
  • Introducing Captive Generation- Diesel or Natural gas

The oil price is too high and eventually, the LCOE (Levelized Cost Of Energy) is too high; the natural gas supply is in scarcity and there is less possibility to get it better in the future.

LNG (liquified Natural Gas) can be an option in the future. But the cryogenic handling process incurs more cost and due to so many global and local issues, relying on this energy source is not wise in the long run.

LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) can be an option to produce electricity or can be used to produce steam. Again, depending on interrupted (in the supply chain) raw materials to produce energy is not wise for consistent energy demand in ensuring uninterrupted production. On the contrary, it is also an expensive raw material to produce energy; however, burning LPG or LNG emits less carbon di oxide to the environment.

Solar power is a well-accepted RE source globally and especially in Bangladesh; and Wind has selective scope in different areas in Bangladesh. Biomass can also be an option to reduce carbon emissions in factories.

Among all the RE sources, Solar Energy (SE) is the most accepted RE opportunity in Bangladesh though we have a scarcity of land and open space on the buildings. SE can be a good solution for producing energy for factories. At the same time, there are lot of challenges to be considered by the industries before implementing SE projects on the rooftop in the C&I (Commercial & Industrial) segment. ROI (Return on Investment) is a concern. In recent days, the ROI on SE projects is poor due to the high initial investment (appreciating the US dollar). Even though

If we talk about the thermal energy demand and use in the textile industries, it is a major shared holder after electricity. In most cases, steam is produced from burning natural gas or LNG, or LPG. All these three sources are in scarcity these days and there is least possibility to get the situation better soon.

A boiler is the main user of consuming natural gas, or LPG or LNG to produce steam from the water. Electricity is also a source of energy for thermos-oil-based boilers to heat up the thermos-oil to produce steam.

Natural gas is also used as a direct source of heat energy in some machines in the textile sector to dry up or shape or form fabrics in the textile sectors.

Now, if we focus on the scope of saving energy in the factories, we better start pointing out the low/no-cost opportunities first. And then medium investment and high ROI and then lower ROI and finally higher investment project to save energy.

To identify low/no cost ES (Energy Saving) scopes in the facilities, it is obvious to run an assessment to list down all of them. A team of professional experts in Energy Auditing (Certified Energy Auditor/Assessor) may be a better choice to do this task. There are a few levels of conducting energy auditing in the facilities, it is better to start with a basic (level I) first and then gradually move on to the detailed level of understanding the demand and exploring the more and wider scope of ES.

In a brief, if we want to manage our energy security in this current tough situation, we have to take a holistic approach rather than taking any specific decision. And the approach will cover low/no cost approach, a moderate to high investment approach in the facility in both segments – energy saving and energy generation.

Turning/keeping off any electrical appliances (lights, fans, Air conditioners, Chiller, computers etc.) and machines when we are not using them is a kind of low/no cost approach to saving a tiny portion of energy from any facility.

Changing high energy-consuming equipment and replacing them by high energy-efficient one can be sometimes a low-cost and sometimes moderate investment approach to saving energy. E.g. using high-quality luminaries (higher lumen per watt) or controlling exhaust fans efficiently, improving overall power quality, reducing the reactive power, eliminating thermal energy loss, harvesting more daylight, reducing light pollutions, changing higher sized motor by optimum capacity motors, stopping compressed air loss, eliminating steam leakage, returning the condensate from the steam distribution network, reusing the discharged unused steam, introducing the economizers, using thermal chambers etc. can be some options to save energy.

The above-mentioned options are not limited; there are a lot of options to save energy. Introducing a harmonics filter in the entire facility can help in multiple ways- reducing energy cost, prolonging the life expectancy of the machineries, avoid the nuisance shutdown of the machines/equipments (generator, transformers, and process machines).

At last, the saving can be met more at the design stage of a project. Design is the most important part to reduce energy consumption in the long run. A factory can be more energy efficient than that of a factory receives LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

To manage the energy crisis, each facility must set a target in consuming energy per unit of production.