Reducing energy costs in feed mills

by Arvin Donley
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Stark said the boiler is probably where feed mills spend their greatest percentage of energy, but there are opportunities for energy savings that many mills overlook.

“About 75% of BTUs in a boiler are actually used,” he said. “Everything else is sent into the environment or someplace else. You have to look for steam leaks, radiation, condensation, boiler blowdowns.”

He said an easy way to save money is to make sure the water softener in the boiler is working correctly. “If you just build up a little bit of scale, say 1/32nd of an inch, it is estimated that it will cost you 8.5% in energy over a year’s time,” he said. “At 1/16th of an inch, it’s 12% additional fuel every year. I learned this the hard way. I found out the water softener hadn’t been working for a period of six months in one of my feed mills. When we opened up the boiler we had a lot of scaling issues. It cost me $5,000 to fix the water softener.”

He also recommends using an economizer, which returns warm water to the boiler so it doesn’t take as much fuel to heat it up, also heat recovery from routine boiler blowdown can be used to preheat make-up water. Stark also suggested having a boiler efficiency analysis done at least once a year to make sure it is running at peak efficiency. “Just like a car, you need to make sure it’s tuned up,” he said. “The cost to bring someone in to do that type of inspection compared to the cost of wasting fuel is much less. The return on investment is very high.”