Source: WattcoSource: WattcoThe industrial sector accounts for an alarming portion of global total final energy consumption (TFEC). In the U.S. alone, it accounted for approximately 24 quads (quadrillion Btu), or about one-third of the total U.S. energy consumption in 2016 with bulk chemical production, refining and mining dominating the consumption curve. These industries have been able to reduce their dependency on petroleum and coal, as well as significantly reduce their total energy consumption since peaking in 1997 at approximately 35 quads, in large part due to efficiency gains.

There still exists a critical need to optimize process heating performance in order to further improve productivity, energy efficiency and competitiveness in the industrial sector. Process heating is vital to industrial processes consuming 5.2 quads, nearly 17 percent of all energy used. Fossil fuels dominate this energy budget, but there has been a rising trend towards electric process heating systems as the industry moves forward under the governance of advanced energy management systems.

Energy Management Systems (EnMS)

Over the past two decades, the U.S. industrial sector has benefited from a reduction of energy per unit of production. A prime example can be realized by focusing on the nation’s largest energy consumer, the chemical industry.

Value added in 1998 equated to $182 million when energy demands were near their peak. Almost two decades later after drastic reductions in energy consumption the added value from chemical product manufacturing more than doubled to $387.9 million.

Future gains in efficiency will be the result of a wider adaptation of energy management system standards. The world’s first global EnMS standard, ISO 50001 and Superior Energy Performance programs are reaching maturity and with proven results adaptation is set to take place at the enterprise level.

ISO 50001 is a voluntary EnMS standard for industrial facilities, commercial facilities or entire organizations. It provides the structural framework that allows users to implement technical and management strategies that have proven to significantly cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. As of September 2017, over 12,000 sites have received ISO 50001 certification.

SEP-certified facilities are those that have gone above and beyond the requirements of the ISO 50001 standard. They have validated the robust use of the 50001 standard to improve their energy performance by up to 30 percent over three years.

Cost-benefit assessments for facilities that have invested in these efforts to achieve SEP 2012 or SEP 2017 program requirements have realized annual savings of up to $938,000 by implementing no-cost or low-cost operational improvements. There has been an average 12 percent reduction in energy costs within 15 months of implementing SEP programs and a 5.6 to 30.6 percent improvement in energy performance over a three year period further illustrating the benefits of implementing EnMS standards.

Potential Saving with Electric Process Heating

On the technology side, there has been another movement alongside EnMS that has showcased the ability to reduce operational expenses and improve the efficiency of process heating systems. Scaling of heating requirements by today's petrochemical, basic chemical and oil and gas refineries has been facilitated through implementations of highly efficient electric process heating systems.

Preferred suppliers like Wattco and Chromalox have the industrial expertise needed to address the demands of complex process heating requirements. Implementation of their advanced control panels, SCR power controllers and direct immersion heating elements has allowed industry partners to optimize system efficiency.

Wattco’s skid-mounted circulation heaters have been used to address increased energy demands in chemical manufacturing processes. They are engineered to address a wide range of fluid viscosities, specific heat, flash temperature and corrosive media. They are also typically configured in a skid mount package in order to facilitate system integration and serviceability.

The cost breakdown for two 750 kW 480 V three-phase explosion-proof electric process heating systems with integrated control panels have been quoted at $125,000 with installation and start-up costs of $2,000 and $1,500 respectively.

Chromalox, on the other hand, has helped industrial facilities address installation and lifecycle costs of multi-megawatt electric process heating systems. Their DirectConnect™ medium-voltage electric process heating systems eliminate the need for costly step-down transformers, reduce power losses and slash installation costs by utilizing medium voltage buses.

A prime example of realized savings is illustrated by a case study of a U.S. refinery that was in need of a 2.4 MW electric hot oil process heating system. Installation and labor costs associated with a traditional low-voltage system in North American markets operating at 480 V equaled $403,975. The refinery immediately realized $224,995 in savings by utilizing medium-voltage services, while the full impact was modeled for the cost of ownership with annual returns as well as a 20-year life cycle.

Chromalox is also expanding the capabilities of their DirectConnect technology with an increased voltage range, third-party certifications and patents that will allow them to penetrate international markets.


In 2018 broad adoption of EnMS will be supported by the growth of corporate sustainability programs. These programs are expected to further penetrate the industrial sector with an enterprise-wide adaptation, which helps drive down the cost of implementation.

Alongside EnMS anticipated operational cost savings alone should be a strong incentive for improving process heating system efficiency. Manufacturers will adopt renewable energy technologies and make use of lighter inexpensive fuels while electric process heaters will be used to augment the increased energy demands needed to support growth in the industry, maintaining its 10 percent share of industrial energy demands.


Tracking Progress: Industry

Use of Energy in the United States Explained

U.S. Chemical industry - Statistics & Facts

Certifying Increased Energy Productivity under ISO 50001