4 Ways to save money with a power system analysis at your pulp and paper mill

By Jeff MacKinnon, P.Eng., PE

Sometimes it seems that the number of requirements for running a plant keeps going up, and regulations keep changing cutting into the bottom line. This is how a lot of clients I have worked with in the past have approached getting a power system analysis completed, they needed labels on their equipment to satisfy the requirements of CSA Z462 and NFPA 70E, so they needed an arc flash study. It was an expense, nothing more.

However, if you define the scope (the first step in performing a power system analysis) smartly, you can duplicate effort without duplicating cost, and use the report to make smart decisions that will either save money immediately or identify capital projects with very fast payback.

1 Reduced number of Electrical Safety Incidents

According to NFPA (source-pdf) the average shock or arc flash injury event can cost $80k in direct costs, if indirect costs are included this can be much higher. However, according to that same paper there are no valid ratios to estimate this.

With a power system analysis in hand, an effective electrical safety program can be developed that will directly affect the number of these incidents. The number of these incidents are typically very low, however the high cost of a single incident will pay for the power system analysis and electrical safety program many times over.

2 Better preventative maintenance program

Motor with pump industry in factory

Competitive pulp and paper mills have at least a preventative maintenance program, and a lot are moving to a predictive maintenance program. The most important part of these programs, like a valid power system analysis, is the quality of input data. When going through the process of validating all the input data for a power system analysis, it would be a simple matter of gathering the information for your maintenance program without duplicating effort. It is likely the same staff that will be doing the work in anycase.

With better information, including short circuit values, expected load flow voltages, etc, you can feed this information into the maintenance program and understand when equipment may fail, allowing you to plan its replacement without affecting the process.

3 Power Quality Improvements

When going through the system and gathering all the necessary input data for the incident energy study, you have all the inputs for proper load flow study, and all you need is some existing load information that can be gleaned from the power meters throughout your mill.

This is where you will see an opportunity to get the most value from the power system analysis. Like most industrial plants you are likely charged:

  • a energy fee (MW-HR),
  • a peak charge (rolling MW) and
  • sometimes a power factor charge.

You can minimize your power factor and energy fees by making sure that you are running your system as close to unity power factor as possible. With a proper power flow study, you will be able to identify areas within you plant that would be best suited for adding power factor correction capacitors and quickly identify the potential payback.

4 Update Drawings of the System

Finally, and likely an over-looked part, is that you will have updated drawings as part of your power system analysis that are very accurate, current, as-built conditions. These drawings are now trusted inputs for any capital or maintenance projects that may take place in the future.


One of the biggest risks to integrating into any existing system, is the quality of the existing documents, and the cost of having a consultant on site developing as-built drawings will increase the cost of a small project quickly. Having these drawings on hand, and assuming you have a document control procedure in place, the consultant replacing a motor or adding a new system will have the best information starting, reducing the design time, construction issues, and start-up concerns.

Next Steps

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