Green Solutions, Smart Operations
Sometimes, finding the best solution for reducing energy consumption only requires digging a little deeper to find new opportunities for improving efficiency.
One of the most important connections all people share is our relationship with our planet. This perspective motivates TE employees to identify, develop, benchmark, and measure opportunities for effectively optimizing our performance in our markets and responsibly lowering our collective impact on the environment, from the processes we use to manufacture our products and operate our business to our approach in developing engineering solutions. One example is when our Subsea Communications (SubCom) business developed a new shipboard energy-management plan to monitor fleet performance over time. The goal was to improve the environmental performance – while increasing the cost efficiency – of SubCom’s fleet of eight shipping vessels.
Defining our Strategy
The first step was identifying the requirements. From this upfront work came a reduction strategy that enabled the SubCom team to reduce its total fuel consumption – across all vessels – by more than 10,000 metric tons (MT) (approximately 4 million gallons), a savings that decreased our fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40,000 MT of carbon dioxide equivalent and reduced fuel costs by more than US$10 million. The plan was launched five years ago with an effort to improve tracking of the fleet’s baseline fuel consumption and identify industry best practices for conserving fuel. The team was looking to define metrics for comparing ship-operating parameters, so they could determine whether fuel consumption could be reduced, and to measure the improvements. Although environmental-performance provisions were outlined in the ISM Code for sea transport owners and operators, there were not – at the time – industry standards or benchmarks for achieving fuel reduction. The team was also unable to identify similar shipping operations against which they could measure their planned fuel reductions.
During the initial rollout stages, SubCom’s project leaders directed the team in outlining environmental-performance benchmarks and defining the project’s energy-reduction parameters. Although the yield of each savings opportunity might be – in itself – relatively small, when considered across the operation of the entire fleet, the collective result had the potential for significant impact. The team crafted their energy-reduction strategy around four critical opportunities:
- Monitoring fuel consumption rates
- Re-calculating routes to leverage ocean currents
- Adjusting shipping schedules and establish operating parameters to ensure vessels travel at more fuel-efficient speeds
- Upgrading – and carefully maintaining – the hull and propeller, which includes regular cleanings to reduce drag and hull resistance, increasing fuel efficiency and resulting in less engine wear
Achieving Significant Efficiencies
The impact of implementing this strategy was – in some cases – immediate and significant. When the team re-calculated its Guam-to-Balboa route, to take advantage of favorable ocean currents in Pacific Ocean, they reduced the vessel’s travel time by 27 hours. Although the new route was slightly longer than the original route, the available ocean currents enabled the vessel to travel faster yet consume less fuel, amounting to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and providing a combined operational savings of more than $27,000. (The fuel savings was approximately US$16,000, based on a cost of $1000/MT for low sulfur Marine Fuel.)
Gaining Additional Efficiencies
To achieve additional efficiencies, the team made other changes on SubCom’s vessels:
- Developed work routines that allow the vessel to reduce power while staying ready to deploy
- Installed motion detectors in low-use spaces and LED lights in spaces requiring continuous illumination
- Secured ventilation dampers in unoccupied rooms to allow slower fan speeds, which reduces switchboard loads yet provides ample airflow for occupied rooms
- Cleaned and repaired the propellers, hulls, and vessel trims, applying an antifouling paint specifically designed to minimize marine growth on vessels operating in warm water at static and slow-moving speeds
- Established diesel-engine monitoring to precisely determine engine conditions, offering the functionality to tune and balance individual cylinders, which helps ensure smooth, efficient engine performance while significantly reducing engine maintenance costs
TE is committed to environmental sustainability. Over the past few years, we have reduced our carbon footprint by approximately 25% and improved safety in our workplaces worldwide.
A crucial part of achieving this level of vessel performance is the SubCom team’s approach to vessel maintenance. The team uses engine analyzers to monitor engine load and gauge wear and tear during operations. This enables the team to pinpoint repairs, reduce the frequency of refueling vessels, and avoid unnecessary overhauls of vessel machinery. As a result, they have increased the endurance range of the vessels and extended engine lifetimes. The key factor in achieving these results was that all vessel personnel actively contributed to the conservation efforts.
At the onset of this effort, the SubCom team’s leadership set a goal of reducing its energy consumption by 10%, an outcome that was considered highly ambitious and seemingly impossible to achieve when it was proposed. By applying sound engineering principles to achieve data-driven improvements, and approaching this effort with the SubCom team’s typical can-do attitude, the team exceeded the original goal. By optimizing routes, installing new lighting systems, and minimizing hull resistance, the team achieved small efficiencies that when measured collectively, delivered significant results which enabled them to surpass a goal they initially believed was unreachable. Their experience shows that sometimes, the most effective path to reducing energy consumption and operating costs is looking for the small improvements in their daily operations.
From the harsh weather of the Arctic Circle to the intense pressure of working to connect a multi-million dollar oil rig, the SubCom team delivers the maximum performance under some of Mother Nature's most extreme conditions. SubCom has an unsurpassed history in delivering customers' systems on time, meeting contractual requirements.