Eastman Chemical's Energy Efficiency Makeover

March 13, 2012
Chemical firm reorganizes and revitalizes its energy management program to pursue challenging efficiency goals.

Energy management is no small effort -- or challenge at Eastman Chemical Co. The chemicals industry is the second-largest energy user among U.S. manufacturing sectors, so poor energy management can be costly. On the other hand, successful efforts to reduce energy usage by chemicals manufacturers can reap significant cost savings.

"Energy is a large cost for us. It is only natural that we focus attention on it," says Sharon Nolen, corporate energy-program manager for the $7.2 billion Kingsport, Tenn.-based producer of chemicals, fibers and plastics.

Like other large energy consumers, Eastman has long had a corporate energy program tasked with making the enterprise more energy efficient. Recently, though, the company has revved up its energy efforts. Signs indicate it is meeting with success.

Among the changes: In 2010 Eastman Chemical established a series of challenging environmental goals, one of which includes reducing its energy intensity by 25% over a 10-year period, with 2008 as the baseline.

That same year, the company made the decision to "reorganize and revitalize" its energy-management program, according to Nolen, who became manager of the energy program during the reorganization. She also is the first certified energy manager to hold the position.

Eastman Chemical Co. estimates it saved $7.5 million in 2011 with its corporate steam leak repair initiative.

As part of the revitalization, the energy-management program introduced more structure, with specific expectations developed for each of Eastman Chemical's manufacturing sites.

The reorganization also changed the reporting structure of the energy-management team, moving it to a higher level within the organization. Nolen reports to the vice president and general manager of worldwide manufacturing support. The energy team also provides status reports to two higher-level groups, including the executive steering team.

The change in the reporting structure raised the profile of the energy-management program. "We gained more visibility and support. I think it was a key factor in getting better funding," Nolen says. (The energy-management program received an $8 million budget for energy improvements in 2011.)

Energy Efforts Pay Off

These actions by Eastman augmented support the company already was receiving as a participant in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star partner program. That support includes the opportunity to network with peer Energy Star partner companies. Eastman became an Energy Star partner in 2008.

Eastman Chemical Co.'s energy-management program delivered strong results in 2011 across 10 manufacturing sites. The results include:
• Energy savings in 2011 equal to $11.6 million and 357 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
• $7.5 million in savings from a corporate steam leak repair initiative.
• Formation of an energy-assessment process that identified more than $650,000 in savings. After a pilot effort in 2010, the assessment process rolled out in 2011 and is in its early stages.
• Employee involvement in the Energy Star "Change the World" program that led to the reduction of 16 million-plus pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

For its efforts, Eastman recently was named a 2012 Energy Star Partner of the Year, one of 40 organizations to receive the honor.

While pleased with the energy-management successes Eastman Chemical achieved in 2011, Nolen says energy-efficiency efforts continue. "We've come a long way, but there's more to be accomplished," she says. "It is a never-ending effort. We can do better with what we already have, and as we introduce new processes, we can improve for the future as well."

The energy-management program has received a 2012 budget that's close to the $8 million it received in 2011, Nolen says. That signals corporate commitment to the program and awareness that the energy-management efforts are making a positive difference, she believes. "Executives don't give [a budget of that size] again if they don't feel they got a good return," she says.

See Also:
How to Save Money on Your Company's Energy Bill

About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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