The Importance of Making Textile Industry Energy-Efficient

The textile manufacturers are trying to meet the demands of the ever-changing fashion industry, where new designs, materials, etc require them to adopt ways that are more efficient in terms of energy, time, money, and production.

At present, high fuel prices as well as the global energy crisis require more and more industries to conserve as much energy as possible. The rapidly growing textile industry is one of the major energy-consuming industries, yet it retains the record of lowest efficiency in terms of energy utilisation. The global textile industry grew from $530.97 billion (2021) to 577.83 billion (2022) at an impressive CAGR of 8.8.

In terms of energy usage, the chemical processing industry uses about 38 per cent of the energy, weaving uses 23 per cent, spinning 34 per cent, and 5 per cent is for miscellaneous purposes.

The textile industry, therefore, no longer has the option to use conventional technologies and processes for manufacturing. It needs to incorporate, agile, modern, and sophisticated processes to conserve energy in every way possible.

Demand-Driven Textile Industry

Being one of the most convoluted manufacturing industrial chains, the textile industry is a heterogeneous and fragmented sector that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) dominate.

The different factors mainly drive the demand: home furnishing, clothing, and industrial use. It is difficult to characterise textile manufacturing due to the diversity in machinery, processes, substance, finishing steps, and the components that come into play.

For instance, to produce a finished fabric, there are different types of yarns or fibres, different fabric production methods, and finishing processes — mechanical finish, chemical finish, printing, preparation, dyeing, and coating — all are interlinked. Even a slight change in one of these factors results in a different end product.

Some other fabric properties include texture, appearance, weight, flexibility, lustre, affinity to dyestuff in a plant, and strength.

Energy Uses in Textile Industry

Due to process diversity and intensity, the textile industry uses a massive amount of energy. However, the industry’s energy consumption greatly depends upon the country it belongs to. For instance, the textile industry contributes less than two per cent of final energy usage in the United States of America, whereas, in China, the percentage goes up to four.

Different types of textile industries use different energy sources. For instance, fuel is the dominant energy source in wet processing, whereas, for yarn spinning electricity is major energy.

The increase in rapid energy consumption demands the incorporation of techniques and technologies that provide improvement opportunities. After all, saving energy is no longer a luxury, it has become a necessity.

Opportunities to Make Industry Energy-Efficient

There are two main ways to make the textile industry energy-efficient. One is by optimising the retrofit or process, and the other is opting for the replacement of old machinery with modern, sophisticated, and efficient technology.

Although, state-of-the-art technology might seem to be a more appealing and quicker way to conserve energy, the upfront capital cost makes it a challenge to go for the same. Therefore, before investing in new equipment, it is imperative to analyse all the advantages that it can offer in terms of wastage, water, material, and other component saving.

If all these factors justify the upfront capital cost, it is a wise move to upgrade the technology. However, in case, if the cost is not justified, then it is better to opt for process or retrofit optimisation.

Identifying the Areas that Require Energy-Efficient Process

Energy management is not limited to only the production factor of the industry, on the contrary, it has relevance in every department. For an industry to be truly energy-efficient, it needs to increase knowledge, enhance awareness, and let everyone be part of the optimisation process.

For starters, it is imperative to analyse the usage of lighting. It being an important factor in electricity consumption, it is vital to analyse whether the light source is used efficiently or not, and take saving measures—limit the lighting use, incorporate daylight saving policy, and much more. Most importantly, replace lights with the ones that are brighter and consume less energy.

Next, electric motors are an important factor that consume a massive amount of energy. Conventional machines used a single motor to generate mechanical energy that was later transferred to all parts of the machine. However, there was a lot of energy wastage in this process. Therefore, modern technologies now incorporate several small motors with a controlling board that couples with the machine and controls the movement of the motors.

Traditional electric heating processes are also a major source of energy wastage. Thanks to technological advancements, the industry now uses gas heating, steam, and indirect or direct fire heating instead of electric heating. Doing this helps conserve energy and reduce costs

Fuel Efficiency

Prevention of air pollution is critical especially when air indexes of cities are becoming unsafe to breathe. Fuel selection is an important factor that requires consideration including the high calorific value, gas characteristics, ease of combustion etc.

Changing the boiler technology is also a smart way to make the industry energy-efficient. It has been some time since the textile industry has not used water-tube boilers instead of smoke tubes, scotch-type tubular or Lancastrian ones.

Steam Efficiency

Although the textile industry does not require a massive amount of steam, there are different locations within the plant where the steam is required.

When transporting steam, there is considerable loss due to heat radiation from the transportation pipes. This then leads to considerable pressure drops. A pipe with a small diameter and high pressure is better for transporting steam over a long distance, instead of using piping with low pressure and a large diameter.

In addition to steam pipes, steam accumulators too require consideration. It is because steam accumulator stores the excess steam and is installed between the heat-consuming load and the boiled, the midway of the heat-transporting pipe. It transforms the steam into heated water, thus, helping conserve the additional steam and reusing it as heated water for other purposes.

Almost every aspect of the textile industry requires frequent heating and cooling of both liquids and gases that act as a medium of heat. Heat exchangers come into play to ensure that during heat exchange between different fluids there is no chemical reaction or contamination that might result due to direct contact.

Heat exchangers efficiently ensure indirect cooling and heating of these liquids and gases.

Opt for Green Energy Sources

Instead of using conventional energies, textile industries today are switching to other non-conventional sources of energy including solar energy, geothermal energy, wind engird, tidal energy, and biomass.

Solar energy is the modern way of things. Initially, people were using solar lights for equipment that require minimum energy. However, modern solar panels can provide, robust, sturdy, and greater energy. For instance, they are being used to propel tubewells in agriculture. Likewise, numerous textile manufacturers are powering their production units via solar energy.

The best part is that the technology used to control these sources of energy are straightforward and easy to maintain. Moreover, nothing is wasted, as there is neither effluent nor air pollution.

Auditing the Energy 

With the ever-changing fashion trends and textile industry requirements, energy auditing becomes a must to save and conserve energy. Energy auditing is basically a survey to analyse and inspect the flow of everything that is being used in the industry.

This help in reducing the amount of energy input into the system without having any sort of adverse impact on the output. When conducting an audit, the focus should be on the visible inefficiencies of energy transfer in the system. For instance, you can look for lighting sparks that are because of the loose joints, or the things like metal-to-metal touch, misalignment, and poor lubrication, among others.

Also, with periodic maintenance, and taking in-time preventive measures, industries are effortlessly reducing power consumption to a great extent. A well-maintained machine would consume less fuel, electricity, or whatever source of energy it is using, while delivering better output.

The competitive environment of the textile industry requires some drastic improvement. It needs to look for ways to reduce production costs without affecting the quality of the output.

The constant increase in production prices is leading to an increase in manufacturing cost. Therefore, energy conservation has become imperative to stay afloat in the competitive industry. Every single penny matters, and the industry needs to work on every aspect that can save and provide it with a cheaper eco-friendly alternative.

May it be adapting to new technologies, upgrading the current systems, using energy alternatives, or even having an energy audit in place. The main objective in the end is to conserve and make the entire industry energy-efficient.

This article is republished from Fibre2Fashion under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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