Covanta has a long history of continuous improvement, from leading the development of energy recovery technologies and advanced air pollution control equipment to delivering an increasing array of services to our customers through Covanta Environmental Solutions. Our facilities routinely achieve availability rates over 90 percent, and we continue to strive for improvements in operations, reliability and performance that help sustain our company financially, while protecting our people, our communities and the planet.
Over the last two years, Covanta has been working to coalesce our long-standing tradition of continuous improvement (CI) into a formal group. We introduced Lean and Six Sigma tools and methodologies to further advance our ongoing efforts to reduce operating and processing waste and uncover additional revenue opportunities. Widely applied in the industrial sector, these tools help us maintain our competitive advantage while continuing to attract capital to sustain our growth.
Continuous Improvement in Action
While our CI Group and the incorporation of our formal Lean / Six Sigma tools are relatively new, we are already well under way in developing our capabilities through training and implementing projects with significant results. We had a very successful first full year of implementation in 2016 and delivered a total of $10 million in net benefits reflecting a concerted and inclusive effort across our CI Group, maintenance, operations and engineering. Some of our recent CI projects include:
Feed Chute Plugs
When chutes feeding waste into our facilities get backed up, these “plugs” can reduce steam generation, consume staff time for unplugging and potentially result in process upsets. A team at the Union County facility analyzed operating data to determine patterns and cut feed chute plugs by more than half.
Several of Covanta’s facilities take Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) waste, thereby preventing potential spread of invasive species and pests and diseases. However, APHIS waste deliveries at our Hempstead facility were causing significant variations in steam output in one of the boilers. New procedures led to a 20 percent reduction in steam flow variation.
Successful installation of the new baghouse at the Essex county facility allowed the team to eliminate the use of phosphoric acid and reduce lime consumption while maintaining environmental performance and reducing wear on equipment. These savings in reagent use reduce costs and lower life cycle environmental impacts associated with regent production.
Steam Cycle Optimization
Our Haverhill facility has successfully stabilized net MWh generation across operating conditions. Prior to optimization, steam cycle efficiency would drop significantly during days with high ambient air temperatures due to reduced effectiveness of the air-cooled condenser.