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Efficiency Improvements Save Money and the Environment
Business factors such as meager pipelines, slowing prescription drug sales, and increasing competition from generic drug companies have heightened pressure on pharmaceutical manufacturers to identify and reduce waste in their processes. Inefficiency can be harmful from an environmental perspective as well because it can result in unnecessary energy consumption and excessive greenhouse-gas emissions. Many drugmakers have begun to evaluate and improve their manufacturing operations to become more economically and environmentally sustainable. Schering-Plough (Kenilworth, NJ) earned the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star for reducing its energy use.
Heating and air conditioning
Some of Pfizer’s compounds require large exchanges of air to maintain proper space conditions, but several suites were operated at excessively high air-exchange rates. The company now evaluates its HVAC operating parameters and adjusts them accordingly. In some instances, Pfizer has reduced HVAC energy usage by 40%, says Brown.
Schering-Plough also modified its air exchanges to reduce energy consumption. The company decreased the number of air changes in the reactor building at its active pharmaceutical ingredient site in Rathdrum, Ireland, after performing a hazards analysis of the area. The reaction building had been using only outside air, and reducing airflow significantly decreased energy use, according to Thomas Pagliuco, director of energy at Schering-Plough.
Electricity and heat
Using the same principle, Schering-Plough recovers waste heat to make steam, hot water, and chilled water. The technique provides electricity twice as efficiently as the electrical grid and reduces carbon-dioxide emissions more than renewable energy sources, according to Pagliuco.
Pfizer captures and reuses waste energy in other ways. The company has installed economizers and blowdown heat exchangers on boilers and used heat exchangers to harness the energy in exhaust air.
Equipment modifications can also reduce waste. Schering-Plough uses a technique called retrocommissioning to find operational and maintenance inefficiencies. The technique also tunes up the company’s equipment and facilities, according to Pagliuco.
Pfizer and other companies have replaced old equipment with a new generation of chillers, boilers, and air compressors that is much more energy efficient. The improved technology cuts energy consumption by 15–20%, says Brown.
The bottom line
The companies’ bottom lines have improved as well. Since the inception of Wyeth’s corporate energy program in 1998, the company has saved $120 million in energy costs, says Belardo. Pfizer’s cumulative cost reductions resulting from conservation efforts during the past five years amounted to more than $115 million, according to Brown. The experience of these pharmaceutical manufacturers shows that business and environmental interests can be met through critical evaluations of and intelligent modifications to manufacturing operations.