Vale Europe, a metal refining specialist based in London, has reduced costs by 60 per cent following a major audit of its steam, condensate and cooling water systems. 

The Acton site, which is now running at 95 per cent efficiency, has also reduced its nitrogen oxide emissions by 55 per cent and eliminated its sulphur oxide emissions.

Vale Acton uses large amounts of heat and chemicals to extract impurities from noble metals such as gold and silver. Prior to the audit, the site was using steam networks that were over 45 years old.

The company commissioned Cheltenham-based engineering firm Spirax Sarco to conduct a detailed audit after it identified issues regarding process speeds, energy costs and efficiency. It also wanted to ensure that its systems were as safe, robust and environmentally-friendly as possible.

The audit identified the outdated condensate return system as having a highly negative impact on the plant equipment due to corrosion and inconsistent water and blowdown quality. It also raised concerns about the boiler house, which was operating at half the required efficiency.

Vale Acton worked closely with Spirax Sarco to develop a bespoke solution for each of the production processes. This resulted in the overhaul of ageing equipment with more modern technologies, including new control valves, steam traps, condensate return units, contamination detection systems, oxygen trims, double block and bleed isolation valves, and controls to increase staff visibility of energy consumption.

The company also replaced its inefficient oil and gas boilers with two new gas-fired boilers.

Darren Matthias, Project Manager at Vale Acton, said: “Since switching to gas we’ve seen a 60 per cent cost reduction and a considerable improvement in our operational efficiency.  This has resulted in a faster process cycle and faster production levels.

“We pride ourselves on being a leader in promoting environmental responsibility and with Spirax Sarco’s help we have been able to achieve our goals and provide a more sustainable service.  By prioritising our impact on the environment, we have also been able to advance production levels and protect the safety of our staff, something we simply can’t put a price on.”

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