elb's hovel of thoughts

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Energy Integration

Oil is one of the biggest driving factors of an economy. The price of anything that relies heavily on the transportation of goods would invariably be affected if the price of crude increases for whatsoever reason (at least until fuel cells or electrical powered materials gain mass acceptance). Therefore it is in the best of interest to keep the prices of oil as low as possible. This is unfortunately, not possible because oil is a limited resource, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to extract the remaining oil. Hence it is of particular importance to be able to integrate processes to maximize the use of energy. How can we use energy sustainably in the chemical industry, in relation to Malaysia?

As a developing country, it can be generally said that the majority of the processes run in Malaysia are outdated and inefficient. Not to worry, even plenty of the industries in the developed countries are outdated (due to the reluctance to test new technologies on a massive scale), and that plants are generally meant to last for at least a couple of decades.

In terms of energy ineffectiveness however, the internal workings of these plants can be redone such that waste energy from a process could be used to heat up a second process. Savings can be massive especially for industries that are heavily dependant on energy intensive processes (such as oil refineries).

Sounds like a good idea, right? If not for several problems. First of all, energy integration of a process is not easy. This I can tell you based on my experience at attempting to design an ethanol plant. It reduces the flexibility of a process because different stages of the plant become more dependant and intimately connected with the other. A small change upstream could drastically affect the downstream. But it is possible. The question is, do we have the skills necessary? Are the engineers competent enough? Is management willing to accept a longer time for the drawing board to be finalized for some good savings later on?

Which is linked with a second factor: the need for open tendering. I shall not elaborate further here, just use your imagination. I shall state however, that it is in the best interests of the environment, the public and the business for a good well designed plant to be in operation compared with a shoddy one which made the cut with some help.

I am sure that there are sufficient competent enough engineers in Malaysia who are capable of doing this necessary job. But are they allowed a fair shot at tackling the problems? Also, the Malaysian government can not keep the prices of petroleum heavily subsidized and low forever, and oil is quickly becoming scarcer. The subsidy money could be better placed elsewhere. People, and the industries need to realise the need for conserving energy.

Stop blaming the goverment entirely for these price increases. Do your part as well.

-If you are to quote this little impromptu essay elsewhere, please have the courtesy to credit me. Thank you.


  • I think it is not only about oil, everything is so expensive, and our salary is still so low. 

    Posted by mrkiasu

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Friday, May 13, 2005 2:07:00 am  

  • Huh ? The price is already up ? When ?

    note : this is the fine example of ignorant Malaysian 

    Posted by YungJie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, May 14, 2005 6:32:00 am  

  • mrK: no doubt about that, however I was just looking at it from the POV of all the wasted energy generated by a chemical plant

    yung: i think it was just 2 weeks ago or something? 

    Posted by pat

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, May 16, 2005 12:48:00 am  

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