Three Sites Earn 2023 Energy Star Certification

Increasing automation and managing steam use enabled three Koch Fertilizer sites to earn 2023 ENERGY STAR® certification.
Posted on Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Increasing automation and managing steam use enabled three Koch Fertilizer sites to earn 2023 ENERGY STAR® certification. 

Koch Fertilizer’s Beatrice, Nebraska; Enid, Oklahoma; and Brandon, Manitoba facilities all earned certification for superior energy performance.

The certification recognizes nitrogen fertilizer facilities that perform in the top 25 percent compared against the industry’s energy efficiency benchmark and meet strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and Natural Resources Canada.

“We strive to be excellent stewards by producing quality fertilizers, while using fewer resources and respecting the environment,” said Pascal Van Teeffelen, executive vice president - operations and compliance for Koch Ag & Energy Solutions. “Energy Star certification recognizes our employees’ dedication to continually improve energy efficiency by enhancing our processes and adopting innovative technologies.”

Koch Fertilizer Beatrice

For the fifth consecutive year, Beatrice has earned Energy Star certification. One of the first U.S. nitrogenous plants certified, the Beatrice team has concentrated the past five years on improving plant efficiency. 

“We have focused on the idea of improving plant efficiency, which helps improve energy efficiency,” Brennen Reynolds, a process controls specialist at the site, said. “Plant efficiency is about how much gas we use to produce a ton of ammonia, which directly impacts energy efficiency.”

One of the ways the team improved plant efficiency is through automation and installation of advanced process control (APC) systems. 

In the urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) plant, APC optimizes the flow of ammonia from the ammonia plant to the UAN plant, minimizing the amount of ammonia that must be pulled from storage. This improvement has reduced steam use, which ultimately lowers natural gas use.

“Our operations team had the idea to use APC to optimize the ammonia flow,” Reynolds said. “We gain a lot of efficiency by sending less ammonia to storage, which requires refrigeration, and later reheating it to send it to the UAN plant.”

Similarly, the team reduced steam and gas usage by improving the reformer and high temperature shift catalyst performance. They adjusted the current APC settings to optimize the primary outlet temperature. 

“Our control system was trying to minimize the temperature of the reformer,” Abby Sorensen, process engineer, said. “By optimizing the temperature, we get better efficiency and use less natural gas to produce a ton of ammonia.”

In another project, the site gained efficiency by reducing the number of continuously running pumps.

Koch Fertilizer Enid

In 2018, the Enid site set the vision to be the best fertilizer plant in North America. With that vision, the culture shifted, and reliability and efficiency improved — earning the team it’s fourth Energy Star certification.

One way the site improved efficiency was through improving steam usage. They made a significant investment to connect and automate the steam systems across different process units. They also built a dashboard to monitor steam conditions and venting. Previously, the facility vented excess steam to the air. By installing additional piping and a new high-efficiency boiler, and developing the dashboard, operators can move the steam around to different areas of the plant as needed to avoid unnecessary venting. 

“It takes natural gas to make the steam, now we’re able to reduce natural gas usage and reuse the water from the steam itself,” Eric Dohman, Enid’s technical capability leader, said. “These improvements reduced natural gas usage, increased the reliability, and enhanced the operational flexibility of the facility.”

Another area of focus for the Enid team has been reliability. A well running, reliable plant is clean and safe. To enhance site reliability, the team implemented APC in the production units, which maintains the plant at its most efficient level. 

“The computer is constantly evaluating new data and makes all kinds of adjustments to hold plants at a certain state 24/7,” Roger Morris, Enid’s operations leader, said. “This has transformed our process. It frees up time for our operators to focus on higher value work and we can look for opportunities to reach the next level.”

Koch Fertilizer Canada

A three-time Energy Star certified plant, Koch Fertilizer Canada in Brandon, Manitoba has invested in two cooling projects to reduce steam use in the summer and reduce electricity use in the winter.

In the summer, the site’s steam turbine runs out of horsepower due to the refrigeration load. The team added liquid NH3 injection to the refrigeration compressor to lower refrigerant temperature and reduce the load sufficiently on the steam turbine leading to steam savings. 

“By lowering the temperature, the compressor is able to compress more gas at the same horsepower, which increases energy efficiency and reduces steam consumption,” Devon Wood, ammonia area supervisor, said.

In another cooling project, the team installed a new cooling water exchanger to reduce heat in other areas of the plant. This allowed the site to idle half of its cooling fin fans in the summer and shut them down in winter.

“The fin fans use air to cool the liquids running through process piping, but the cooling water exchanger uses water from the cooling water towers to cool down the process liquid, which is much more efficient,” Wood said. “By turning off the fans in winter, we’re saving electricity and wear and tear on the equipment.

The Koch Fertilizer certifications build on Koch Industries’ commitment to responsible stewardship. For the fourth consecutive year, Koch Industries earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award in recognition of its superior energy management practices.