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Placing emphasis on saving energy

Energy-intensive nature of the petroleum and petrochemical industry makes ExxonMobil Asia Pacific aware of the need to be disciplined in how it runs its operations efficiently.

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Using real-time optimisation technology, ExxonMobil Singapore Refinery has saved enough energy to power more than 7,000 four-room HDB households.

EXXONMOBIL Asia Pacific Pte Ltd has won three EENP awards this year. This takes the total awards won by the company since 2013 to six.

The awards bagged by ExxonMobil this year are for Excellence in Energy Management, Best Practices at its Singapore Refinery and Best Practices (Honourable Mention) at the Singapore Chemical Plant.

Last year, the company won the Best Practices Award and the Best Practices Honourable Mention. In 2013, it got the Best Practices Award.

"We are very pleased and honoured to add the Excellence in Energy Management System award to our string of Best Practices awards in 2017. It is good to have our ExxonMobil Global Energy Management System (GEMS) recognised by the Singapore government," says Bhaskar Venkatraman, technical division manager of the Singapore Chemical Plant.

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ExxonMobil has been using GEMS to drive its efforts to manage energy use at its refineries and chemical plants worldwide since its launch in 2000. GEMS is anchored on many years of the company's engineering knowledge, strong leadership focus, and discipline in tracking and monitoring energy performance to drive energy efficiency improvement.

From 2002 to 2016, ExxonMobil's operations in Singapore improved its energy intensity by about 25 per cent, or an average of about 2 per cent a year over 15 years. The pipeline of more than 20 projects from now till 2020 promises to deliver further improvements.

"GEMS is a result-oriented and systematic framework to identify energy performance opportunities in our operations, execute closure plans and continuously improve. Management leadership, organisational commitment and personal accountability work hand in hand to deliver these improvements," says Mr Venkatraman.

In addition to leadership, which is critical to enhancing awareness and driving accountability, GEMS is also underpinned by two fundamental principles:

  • Firstly, energy and energy efficiency are everyone's business, from management to process engineers, from equipment specialists to console operators.
  • Secondly, continuous minor improvements and optimisation of base operations are as important as the mega projects, if not more.

GEMS has enabled ExxonMobil to move towards leading-edge energy efficiency performance.

"Through the years 2002 to 2016, our initiatives have led to about 25 per cent improvement in energy efficiency at our Singapore integrated manufacturing site, which is the largest in the ExxonMobil circuit. Taken together with what we have done at our second olefins plant which started in 2013, that is almost the same as removing more than 479,000 cars from the Singapore roads, from a CO2 emissions standpoint," says refinery technical division manager Lai Man Wai.

For ExxonMobil, the energy-intensive nature of the petroleum and petrochemical industry makes it acutely aware of the need to be disciplined in how it runs operations efficiently.

"Doing this is key to meeting growing energy demand, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and extending the supply and affordability of energy sources. Also, with the high energy cost in Singapore, in order to remain competitive in the region and across the world, we have to place a high priority on energy efficiency," says Mr Venkatraman.

ExxonMobil's winning Best Practices initiatives for 2017 continue to underscore the critical importance of continuous improvements, and working together to identify and implement the right opportunities.

As for winning the Best Practices Award, "ExxonMobil leverages real-time optimisation (RTO) technology to push the boundaries of conventional operating strategies, even as we sustain safety, reliability and product quality," says Mr Lai.

"When we applied RTO to optimise the operating temperatures in the reboilers at our continuous catalytic reformer complex, we managed to achieve significant energy savings, enough to meet the electricity needs of more than 7,000 four-room HDB households @ 395 kWh per month in 2016."

Three initiatives implemented at ExxonMobil's Singapore Chemical Plant also received a Best Practices Honourable Mention. These projects used innovative design approaches, engineering optimisation and facility upgrades to overcome pre-existing facility constraints such as structural integrity, spacing, while safeguarding operational reliability and being cost-effective.

For example, rigorous engineering evaluation had to be undertaken and advanced controls were installed to minimise heat loss in the heavy aromatics tailing tower feed cooler, leading to more heat recovery and less fuel gas consumption in the furnace.

Mr Lai highlights that shortly, ExxonMobil will be celebrating the completion of its third cogeneration plant in Singapore - at its refining site in Jurong. The new cogeneration plant will help ExxonMobil's Singapore Refinery use energy even more efficiently.

Electricity produced by this facility will provide enough power to meet all the site's needs and significantly decrease consumption of energy from the Singapore grid, thus increasing the site's energy efficiency.

ExxonMobil continues to use GEMS to consolidate knowledge, to identify and act on energy-saving opportunities. From now to 2020, ExxonMobil has already identified a pipeline of over 20 projects to enhance and use energy more efficiently in its operations in Singapore.

"Our energy-efficiency efforts go beyond our operations. We invest in technologies and produce a range of products that also allow our customers/ consumers to become more efficient themselves, reducing their costs and carbon footprint, for example halobutyl rubber and advanced synthetic lubricant Mobil1," says Mr Venkatraman.

ExxonMobil has been operating in Singapore for more than 120 years and has a multibillion-dollar manufacturing and marketing presence today. With more than S$20 billion of investments, it is one of Singapore's largest foreign investors, and employs more than 3,500 people. The integrated refining and petrochemical complex in Singapore is the largest in ExxonMobil's global circuit.

The company has also expanded its lubricants plant to manufacture grease and its flagship synthetic motor oil, Mobil 1. In addition, besides being the base for an extensive network of Esso-branded service stations, Singapore also serves as the company's Asia-Pacific headquarters for the fuels and lubricants marketing, supply and transportation and chemicals business lines, and its global LNG marketing and services hub.