For Black, Honeywell, Insulation is a Key Factor For Energy Efficiency

July 1, 2003

From day one, Honeywell Nylon Inc. in Chesterfield, Va., has made a significant investment in insulation. According to engineering leader Henry "Hank" Black, "Insulation is one of those things we’ve always had to do. With 570 degrees Fahrenheit (F) piping, you couldn’t exist economically if you didn’t insulate-the energy cost would be enormous. Today, we probably insulate more of the steam condensate lines than we did back in 1955 when the plant was first built. At that time oil prices were so low and there was not the awareness of energy conservation and cost savings that there is right now."

Because it spends millions of dollars each year on energy, including natural gas, electricity, and number 2 heating oil, Honeywell is always looking for ways to conserve. To that end, Black says that the company spends several million dollars annually on capital improvements to upgrade, improve and maintain the equipment and the processes.

"We have plant maintenance and an on-site contractor who maintains the insulation and insulates new work," says Black, who is responsible for project implementation of new work and maintaining the equipment. "They routinely do energy surveys where they identify opportunities where we could insulate and save money. They use infrared technology to define the amount of heat loss in a certain area where we could use more insulation or repair insulation. Then we do an economic analysis to see if it is worth investing. Obviously, we are not going to spend $5,000 on insulation to save $100 per year. We’ve had energy conservation specialists performing these surveys for five years and in that time they’ve saved us tens of thousands of dollars by doing these surveys. Using government certified software, they’ve been able to clearly document the amount of money we are saving with insulation."

Currently, Honeywell Nylon employs 850 people, of which 150 are maintenance personnel. "With 570 degree (F) piping, personnel protection is an issue," says Black. "Safety is another reason why we insulate all our process and utility piping (approximately 10,000 feet) and equipment. The insulation reduces the surface temperatures to a much safer level."

Insulation is also essential in regulating process temperatures. "Producing nylon carpet fibers requires very high temperatures in order to keep the nylon molten as it goes from reactor to reactor," explains Black. "In each reactor there is a chemical reaction which requires precise temperature control, which is one of the hallmarks of the process. In order to control the temperature to within a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, insulation is critical-otherwise you would be at the mercy of the weather." Insulating. It’s just a way of life for Honeywell Nylon. It’s not a "now and then, special consideration." Rather, it’s a necessary part of their plant maintenance process. It just is …and always will be.