Charter Steel Kicks-off Better Plants Commitment with In-Plant Training and Employee Engagement Event

By Sachin Nimbalkar, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Supporting the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program on Feb 10, 2016

Charter Steel joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants program in October 2015. Since then, the manufacturer of carbon and alloy steel rod, bar, and wire has set an overall company goal of reducing energy intensity by 25 percent over 10 years among their three U.S. facilities in Wisconsin and Ohio. The company will work closely with the Energy Department to achieve its ambitious goal, and already is engaging a team of technical experts to uncover savings at its Saukville, WI headquarters.

On January 19th, Charter Steel hosted its first Process Heating In-Plant Training (InPLT), a four-day event, led by Dr. Arvind Thekdi, an expert in process heating. In conjunction with the event, the company introduced InPLT participants to Charter Steel’s Better Plants energy savings goal.

InPLTs are system-specific workshops (compressed air, process heating, steam, pumps, and fans) led by DOE experts that train participants on how to identify, implement, and replicate energy-saving projects.

The Charter Steel InPLT included a three-day process heating assessment, followed by a day-long training on energy management Best Practices and DOE’s Process Heating Assessment and Survey Tool (PHAST 3.0). The team at the Saukville plant was focused on identifying opportunities for reducing natural gas consumption in the reheat and annealing furnaces, and reducing the consumption of electricity in the electric arc furnace.

Participants started in the classroom by learning process heating fundamentals, best practices, monitoring equipment, and the PHAST 3.0 software tool. After covering the theoretical aspects of process heating assessment, the attendees started the hands-on portion of the training on the factory floor, learning about taking quality measurements, collecting relevant data and analyzing opportunities for several furnace designs. The participants evaluated several different furnaces at the Charter Steel facility including reheat furnace, annealing furnaces, and electric arc furnace.

Participants from the Cleveland plant used data from their plant and performed energy efficiency analysis on the Cleveland plant reheat furnace. The team collected temperature, surface area, and flue gas oxygen data for their Cleveland reheat furnace remotely and entered it in the PHAST 3.0 tool. Participants from Saukville analyzed the energy performance of their continuous and batch annealing furnaces and identified production scheduling changes that would result in energy savings. The energy management workshop held on the final day offered the participants and the plant management team opportunities to learn the requirements for conducting and reporting the results of a process heating energy assessment that considers the entire system, from energy inputs to the work performed as the result of these inputs.

As a result of these efforts, the participants identified significant potential energy consumption reduction opportunities at the Saukville facility.  A large percentage of heat supplied to the continuous annealing furnace is going through the stack and furnace walls – this is wasted heat that can be reduced. The energy savings potential for the furnaces on which process heating assessment was carried out, varies from 9.3% to as high as 21% of the current energy use.  The plant has multiple annealing furnaces, one reheat furnace, and one electric arc furnace (EAF).

The Saukville plant is also well aware of the relationship between good housekeeping and safety and has implemented procedures to promote a safe work environment for employees. “From a good housekeeping and safe work environment point of view, the Saukville plant is one of the best plants we have visited in the last two-three years,” said Dr. Thekdi.

During the training event, Tari Emerson, a Division Internal Energy Manager at Charter Steel’s Saukville plant and point of contact for DOE’s Better Plants Program mentioned, “Charter Steel has a thriving team environment that will work well to achieve the company’s energy improvement goals.” Emerson went on to say, “The DOE in-plant trainings are designed to develop cross-functional teams that drive change, innovation, and technology.”

Emerson is planning to utilize the standardized tools that will allow Charter Steel’s operations teams to deliver savings quickly.