Through partnerships with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program’s (ITP) Save Energy Now LEADER Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star for Industry Program, Harrison Steel Casting Company has achieved significant energy savings by leveraging the two programs to capitalize on its energy-efficiency efforts.

Harrison Steel, a producer of highly engineered carbon and low/medium alloy steel castings, is a preferred supplier to some of the biggest names in the agriculture, heavy equipment, energy, military, mining, and oil and gas industries. As a metal casting company, Harrison Steel – like many other steel foundries of its size – experiences very slim profit margins. Reducing operating costs through reductions in energy usage is one way companies like Harrison Steel can help increase that margin and gain a competitive edge, which is why it chose to make significant energy efficiency changes in order to improve its bottom line. In 2006, Harrison Steel’s manufacturing facilities received an energy audit from Jack Staley of Balance Engineering that revealed a number of ways the company could pursue its newfound drive for improved efficiency.

With energy costs typically equaling 5 to 8 percent of sales, Harrison Steel understood the value of increasing profits by implementing energy-efficiency projects.1 These investments in energy efficiency add to the company’s bottom line without having to increase product sales volume. For example, using profit margins similar to that of Harrison Steel, a company that cuts energy spending by $66,000 through efficiency measures would have to increase its total sales by $1 million in order to achieve the same financial impact.

Since its initial energy audit in 2006, Harrison Steel has made headway in undertaking a number of energy projects that were recommended as potential cost and energy savers. One project was to upgrade to natural gas burners used for preheating ladles before putting molten metal into them. Harrison Steel chose to implement this project because of its capacity to reduce operating expenses while only costing approximately $17,500 to implement.

The existing burners before the upgrade were old and obsolete, using a less-than-optimal air and gas mixture and producing a poor flame shape. The estimated energy savings from merely improving the burners is an impressive $73,857 per year.2 This means the repayment period for the project was less than three months. To achieve the same annual affect through increasing sales, Harrison Steel would have had to generate an additional $1,119,045 (Figure 1 displays the project’s estimated return on investment over the next five years). A second project the company is currently undertaking is a variable speed drive project for its well pump. This upgrade will allow the company to actually slow down the pump to control the plant water pressure rather than using pressure demand valves to throttle while the machine is running at full speed. This variable-speed drive upgrade will cost $25,000 to implement and will save the company approximately $16,800 per year in electricity costs.3 (Figure 2 displays the project’s estimated return on investment over the next five years). Harrison Steel also has been able to eliminate more than 100 air leaks. Overall, these projects have produced an estimated $105,600 in annual energy savings, all with payback periods of less than 18 months.4 After capturing the savings from these projects, which focused on the lowest-hanging fruit, Harrison Steel realized it needed to get serious about developing an in-house energy management team and working with other organizations to continue achieving energy savings.

Partnering with Energy Star
Harrison Steel initially became aware of EPA’s Energy Star for Industry Program, a voluntary government partnership program aimed at helping companies develop and improve energy management, through the American Foundry Society’s work with Energy Star. Teaming with Energy Star was a logical decision for Harrison Steel, as the program focuses on providing its partners with the guidance needed to develop strong energy management plans and establish corporate energy management programs and practices. Harrison Steel saw this as a natural progression in its mission to further improve its efficiency. In the fall of 2009, Harrison Steel began its partnership with the program, using the opportunity as a way to not only build a sustainable energy management framework, but to also make its efforts more personal to employees, as opposed to just a list of engineering items to complete.

To date, Harrison Steel has experienced two main benefits from its partnership with Energy Star. First, the partnership has enabled the company to interact one-on-one with its strategic energy advisor, a consultant assigned to work with the company to help it form an effective energy team and to aid partners in achieving the most from Energy Star’s assistance. Second, the company has gained valuable insight from Energy Star Web conferences that offer opportunities to network with and learn from other professionals involved in energy management at organizations with similar goals and challenges. Through the formation of its energy team, Harrison Steel was able to finally complete a lighting project it had considered implementing for years – a recommendation stemming from its 2006 energy audit that the company could not get approval for without assistance from Energy Star. The additional focus afforded by Harrison Steel’s energy team added the impetus needed to drive the project through the approval process.

Partnering with Save Energy Now
During this time, Harrison Steel also discovered ITP’s Save Energy Now LEADER Program, a national initiative to drive a reduction in industrial energy intensity 25 percent in 10 years. Harrison Steel quickly recognized the added value Save Energy Now LEADER could offer its company. By examining ITP’s online materials, Harrison Steel realized the program provides technical expertise, as well as a strong background in understanding and controlling energy consumption through engineering and other technical means. Harrison Steel saw the potential and appreciated the value of applying these technical tools to its energy systems.

In the spring of 2010, Harrison Steel signed the Save Energy Now LEADER Pledge. The company immediately benefitted from joining the LEADER initiative and found it complementary to the work the company had been doing with Energy Star. Energy Star helped Harrison Steel improve its energy management program and Save Energy Now LEADER supplied technical assistance to successfully implement efficiency improvements to its industrial systems and processes.

Harrison Steel instantly took advantage of the materials found on ITP’s Web site, such as information on improving energy efficiency through upgrading existing standard belts to newer V-belts for belt-driven equipment, like fans. Harrison Steel’s energy team also utilized ITP’s online materials to gain insight and instruction that may facilitate implementation of a future combustion-efficiency project for heat treatment furnaces.

Integrating the assistance provided by Energy Star and Save Energy Now LEADER are now an important feature in Harrison Steel’s efforts to continue improving its energy efficiency. The company quickly discovered that Energy Star for Industry shines in terms of energy management, including energy team support and motivating brand, and Save Energy Now LEADER adds value by providing the engineering tools for achieving implementation. By partnering with both programs, Harrison Steel has found itself equipped with the full spectrum of tools needed to plan and achieve significant energy savings.

Industrial companies interested in reducing energy consumption and associated costs can examine partnership opportunities with Save Energy Now LEADER and Energy Star for Industry by visiting their Web sites at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/saveenergynow/ and http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=industry.bus_industry.

This article appeared in Energy Matters, the newsletter of the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program.

Endnotes
1 Discussion with Jeremy Allyn on July 21, 2010.
2 Discussion with Jeremy Allyn on July 21, 2010.
3 Discussion with Jeremy Allyn on July 21, 2010.
4 Discussion with Jeremy Allyn on July 21, 2010.