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Going virtual saves Pfizer time and money

The Business Times

USING virtual metering technology for smart energy management and intelligent analytics of manufacturing processes for energy and water efficiency has earned Pfizer Asia Pacific Pte Ltd an Honourable Mention under the best practices award category this year.

Being a multi-purpose batch process plant, Pfizer finds it challenging to monitor energy, water and nitrogen usage in processes and equipment. To reduce cost and downtime of installing physical meters, Pfizer adopted virtual metering instead.

Virtual metering uses mathematical models to generate real time operational data by utilising equipment design data and process variables from existing automation systems such as distributed control system, building monitoring system, power monitoring system and programming logic controllers.

"Pfizer is constantly seeking new opportunities to reduce our energy and utilities usage. The company has implemented many energy efficiency improvements at generation area. Pfizer utilises new technology to monitor and reduce energy, water and nitrogen usage for manufacturing operations by installing virtual meters instead of physical meters which are expensive and require longer downtime to install," says S K Venkatakrishnan, senior utilities engineer at the company. He is a Singapore certified energy manager.

"Pfizer is honoured to receive this EENP award from NEA. This is a strong recognition and motivation for the team to strive to be even more energy efficient. We hope that our award will serve as an inspiration to other companies to embrace energy efficiency through technology and help them to create breakthroughs and actualise their sustainability effort in their manufacturing processes," says Mr Venkatakrishnan.

"Understanding the role of energy efficiency in helping to reduce the impact on climate change, Pfizer strives to be an industry leader in energy management. As such, we are committed to procuring and using energy in an efficient, cost effective and environmentally responsible way."

Energy wastage can be a result of inadequate design, inefficient operation and poor maintenance of equipment which leads to higher energy usage. Energy efficiency can be improved by continuously monitoring and maintaining the optimum performance of the processes and equipment. Energy performance indicators and baseline energy usage of process trains can be set in a virtual metering platform and immediate action can be taken if there is any abnormality observed.

"We strongly believe that continuous monitoring of equipment performance using advanced analytical technology like virtual metering and IIOT (Industrial Internet Of Things) with equipment condition monitoring, such as predictive maintenance, will improve operation and equipment efficiency, reduce energy usage, equipment downtime and lead to reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions," says Mr Venkatakrishnan.

The company aims to improve energy management and efficiency in order to achieve its 2020 public goal of a 20 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from a 2012 baseline. It uses renewable energy technology where it makes good business and environmental sense.

Some of the notable actions that Pfizer is taking to meet its energy goals include promoting leadership at sites in energy management and environmental stewardship; assessing renewable energy projects and implementing them where they are viable; increasing colleague awareness and engagement by instilling a culture of innovation, ownership and conservation; and undertaking energy assessments across its global network.

These actions have improved operational efficiency, reduced energy expenditures, enhanced colleague skills, decreased cost of goods, and contributed to Pfizer's reputation as a responsible corporate citizen, says the company.

"The design and construction of our newly installed mill building facility incorporated sustainable building principles and green building design principles. We had introduced projects with innovative technologies that reduce energy usage such as tri-generation systems with absorption chillers, high efficiency process chillers and air compressors, low energy vacuum assist dryers, variable speed drive with high efficiency motors, solar photo voltaic (PV) systems, HVAC retrofit (cooling coil replacement) and cooling tower improvements," says Mr Venkatakrishnan.

The site has been installed with LED lights in most areas including ex-proof lights in the manufacturing area. Best practices were adopted to optimise the operating conditions.

Mr Venkatakrishnan says that besides the virtual metering project submitted for the EENP Awards 2018, the company's new initiatives include installing 1,380 solar PV panels at building roofs on site, ex-proof LED lightings in production areas, high efficient side stream filters for cooling towers, high efficient IE3 motors, high efficient process chillers and pilots on HVAC cooling coils with better heat exchange.

The company has taken various steps to enhance in-house capability in energy efficiency. These including: training process engineers to take ownership and use virtual metering technology to optimise their process trains and to enhance the site energy management programme to further minimise energy usage and cost. The site energy cross-functional energy management team meets every month to review energy efficiency project progress, generate and share ideas and update reports to site and corporate energy management.

At the same time, there are plans to continue to promote leadership in energy management, increase staff's awareness and engagement, and instil a culture of energy conservation. The company also plans to retrofit the chilled water plant with high efficiency chillers and improve gas turbine performance.

"At Pfizer Singapore, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products," says Mr Venkatakrishnan.

The company's global portfolio includes medicines and vaccines as well as many of the world's best known consumer health care products. Every day, Pfizer staff work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time.

"Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable and affordable health care in Singapore," adds Mr Venkatakrishnan.