Advanced agitator design shaves 60% off plant energy bill 07 April 2011

Process engineers at AkzoNobel's Birmingham coatings plant are reporting energy consumption cut by more than 60%, with batch times reduced by 20 minutes, since installing EKATO agitators.

AkzoNobel's engineering manager Scott Love says the equipment was chosen to achieve those goals and also to reduce maintenance – together delivering a 300% improvement in plant throughput.

Love says that the plant manufactures water-based coatings and that growing demand meant fast action – particularly to solve ingrained process maintenance issues.
"We had a higher level of maintenance, due to a build up of material around the agitator shaft and heating coils, reducing heat transfer capability, which ultimately increases the process times and requires cleaning every three months," he explains.

A range of solutions, such as adding additional baffles and retrofitting impellers, had been tried, but none had offered the improvements needed.

AkzoNobel approached EKATO, and subsequently upgraded the existing reactor with that firm's Viscoprop impeller and electric motor technology, which saves energy by using a smaller 15kW motor.

"This smaller motor still achieves better mixing performance than the previous 75kW unit, with a lower capital investment," comments EKATO UK's technical sales engineer William Pocock.

With the installation complete, AkzoNobel's Birmingham plant confirmed a 20 minute reduction on its previously nine-hour batch times – due to improved heat transfer, better product circulation and reduced solids build-up on the internal heating coils – which also reduces the need for a chiller, resulting in further energy savings.

Love says that internal cleaning of the reactor has now become an annual procedure, as opposed to quarterly or between manufactured batches, so resulting in less down time and waste.

"This investment will significantly help our organisation to make strides with process reliability, energy consumption and environmental matters," conclude Greg Methven, AkzoNobel site manager at Birmingham. "This is a step toward achieving our sustainability ambitions for 2015, and beyond."
Payback on the investment will be under three years, he says.

Brian Tinham

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