Efficient system helps hedge against downturns

#3 Pulp Machine Vacuum Pump

When the Harmac Pacific pulp mill near Nanaimo was expanded in 1962, its No.3 pulp machine was outfitted with new Bingham 14x2 HTG vacuum pumps.

At the time, the pumps were the modern standard for effectively removing water from the pulp sheet formation process.

Forty-eight years later, however, things had changed. In 2010, as Harmac's management started to investigate energy efficiency options, they zeroed in on the aging pumps.

Left to right: Mark Pauling, Machine Area Supervisor; Saul Spearing, Project Manager; Doug Barbour, Production Engineer and Energy Team Leader

"Through study, we found that the existing vacuum pumps were not only inefficient due to their technological design, the study also revealed that the pumps' performance had deteriorated 17% in low vacuum ranges, and as much as 40% in higher ranges," says Ron Andreychuk, Harmac's Electrical and Instrument Superintendent.

"Meanwhile, the system was still consuming the same amount of electricity. There were pretty significant gains to be had with an upgrade."

The system consists of six pumps and three motors on the wet end of the pulp machine to extract whitewater from the pulp during the pulp sheet formation process, with two pumps connected to each motor. Andreychuk says both pumps and motors were replaced on each of the three sets, reusing the existing gearboxes, and using Nash 2BE4 series pumps due to their high efficiency.

"Originally the system had a total of 2,100 connected hp," says Andreychuk. "The engineering data revealed we could reduce the connected horsepower to 1,550 hp, so there was about 550hp to be saved out of the system.

"Over the course of the year, that adds up to about 434 kW, or 3.7 million kWh of energy from the pumping system. So we put a proposal in to BC Hydro."

$1 million incentive, $130,000 in annual savings

Harmac Pacific's Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft (NBSK) pulp mill located on the east coast of Vancouver Island near Nanaimo, B.C.

Last fall, BC Hydro provided Harmac Pacific with a $1 million incentive to support the upgrade.

"BC Hydro was a pleasure to deal with in making this all happen," says Andreychuk. "Sometimes in the past, their process was a bit long and drawn out. BC Hydro has really stepped up to the plate and made changes to help customers such as ourselves take advantage of these financing opportunities.

The project was completed on budget, we're currently in the measurement and verification phase, and it's considered a huge success."

The new system is projected to save Harmac $130,000 in electricity costs annually, and the equivalent kWh savings are enough energy to power more than 300 homes. So far, Andreychuk says the system is performing about 6% better than expected, as it goes through fine-tuning. Which, he says, is good news for the future.

"In this business we're always striving to improve our bottom line," says Andreychuk. "Outside of fibre, energy is probably one of the top five costs associated with operating our business. Since the pulp business is cyclical in nature, you strive to continue to lower your production costs.

"Any opportunity we can create to lower our energy consumption is good for our business and the people of the province."

Power Smart's role in Regeneration

As B.C. continues to grow, so has our need for clean electricity. BC Hydro's goal is to manage that growth through conservation, while renewing infrastructure to meet the needs of future generations.

BC Hydro's Power Smart program, launched in 1989, plays a leading role in conservation for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Of BC Hydro's 1.8 million customers, only about 2,500 are industrial, but together they use about 40% of the energy consumed in the province. A single typical pulp mill uses 400 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy per year – the same as about 36,000 homes, or all the homes in Mission, Campbell River, and Kitimat combined.