It was late 2015. Aware of the importance of reducing our ecological footprint, we organised brainstorming sessions in both our organisation and operations management teams. Looking for ways to reduce our energy usage, we concluded that knowing the use for the entire production chain was not enough. To achieve an energy usage reduction of 10% in 2016-2020, we needed to understand the use of each individual machine and installation in the production process. Gaining the knowledge and developing an adequate monitoring system for that purpose took us longer than expected.
The learning curve was demanding but rewarding. Our new insights helped us to draw up far-reaching energy reduction demands for a new pulp machine. Additionally, together with the supplier, we were able to make the new machine even more economical than the specifications had promised. This project now offers yearly energy savings of 350 MWh, the average yearly consumption of 1,000 households.
To reduce gas usage we have focused on excess heat in the production process. This heat is used to extract water from the drying paper. Recovering the excess heat to preheat the water for the paper production has proven to be an effective investment. 2017 marked the first year that this intervention resulted in savings; about 65,000m3 of gas.
We have realised energy savings of 1.7% in 2016 and an additional 0.9% in 2017. Now at the halfway mark, our 2018 savings are at more than 6%. If our planned efforts for the rest of 2018 are to be as fruitful as we expect, we will have reached a 9% reduction by the end of the year. Even though these results are encouraging, we are aware that they are just a start. Energy savings could become increasingly difficult to realise in the future. And, like others in the energy-intensive paper industry, Neenah Coldenhove has to deal with additional governmental demands for energy reduction. But with a dedicated organisation, an effective monitoring system and the free-flowing exchange of ideas, important demands will be met to take the next steps.