NORPAC and Columbia Colstor: Partners in Efficiency

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NORPAC Foods is a 240 member cooperative and leading food processor, packaging fruits, vegetables, soups, and pastas in plants located throughout the Northwest region. In 2006,  they committed to Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI), a strategic energy management program offered by Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) on behalf of the region’s utilities. NEEA developed CEI to equip industrial facilities with the tools and methods required to integrate strategic energy management into all facets of their business. The CEI process encourages participants to look beyond a project-based approach to energy efficiency toward more holistic management practices. 

This simple adjustment resulted in savings estimated at $250 per day when this compressor is not running.

NORPAC’s processing plants are typically co-located with a refrigeration facility. In the case of NORPAC’s Plant in Quincy, Washington (Quincy Foods LLC), Columbia Colstor (Colstor) owns and operates the refrigeration facility. Adhering to the CEI process, Quincy Foods LLC reviews its energy profile and looks to identify and optimize the most substantial areas of energy use. Refrigeration comprises a significant portion of both facilities’ energy consumption. The plant uses freeze tunnels in their processing, while Colstor houses and operates the associated compressors and motors. Both Quincy Foods LLC and Colstor management realized there were significant opportunities to reduce energy costs, and with the help of a NEEA Energy Advisor, formed a partnership. Colstor’s Maintenance Superintendent was invited to join the plant’s energy team and made valuable contributions. For example, he informed the team that a flaw in one of the freeze tunnels was resulting in freezing inefficiencies which required Colstor to run two extra compressors, contributing to high energy consumption. The Quincy team had little visibility into this type of information prior to this unique partnership. 

In 2012, NORPAC’s Quincy plant reduced its annual energy intensity by nearly 22 percent.

This partnership facilitates the improvement  of current processes. Both companies realized that refrigeration compressors could be adjusted when the freeze tunnels are not in use. As a result, they were able to take compressors offline during slower production periods. This simple adjustment resulted in savings estimated at 
$250 per day. The defrosting of freeze tunnels provided another significant source of savings made possible through this partnership. The plant defrosts its tunnels routinely when processing. Since Colstor is responsible for running the engine room, the plants’ tunnel operators now inform Colstor engine room operators when it is time to defrost the tunnels and when it is time to freeze again. Colstor turns the compressors down or off while defrosting and back up when it’s time to freeze. 

Essentially, plant operations informs Colstor of its production schedule and volume, and Colstor acts accordingly. Accomplishments like this are only possible with established communication channels. 
Improved communication between Quincy Foods LLC and Colstor led to greater energy performance. Both organizations agreed to and documented a communication protocol to ensure the realization of further benefits.  This dialogue allows both facilities to understand and respond quickly to issues that arise. Quincy Foods LLC identifies spikes in Colstor’s energy and water use as well as other abnormalities, allowing the energy team to mobilize and reconcile any problems.

NORPAC Quincy Experiences Exceptional Energy Performance

In 2012, NORPAC’s Quincy plant reduced its annual energy intensity by nearly 22%, in part due to its partnership with Colstor. This was possible because the energy program they established provided a structured mechanism to examine energy impacts of specific processes, and to address energy related issues as they arise. While Quincy’s production increased compared to 2011, their kWh consumption decreased 4.2%.   As well, 2013 energy reductions surpassed 2012 performance by 5.3%. Quincy Foods LLC’s exceptional performance is in no small part due to its high functioning energy management system. 


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