Efficiency Improvements Save Money and the Environment

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Equipment and Processing Report

Equipment and Processing Report, Equipment and Processing Report-04-15-2009, Volume 0, Issue 0

Many drugmakers have begun to evaluate and improve their manufacturing operations to become more economically and environmentally sustainable.

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
Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems typically consume a large portion of the energy used in pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. These systems are essential for controlling temperature, humidity, and particulates, but can be a major source of energy waste if not managed carefully. Pfizer (New York) uses a quality risk-management approach to examine its operating parameters to ensure that the temperature, humidity, and airflow of each system is appropriate for the products’ needs, according to Martin Brown, the company’s senior manager of global engineering.

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.

Chilled water
Schering-Plough also reduced energy use by converting one of its chiller plants from a traditional primary–secondary system to a variable-primary chiller plant. This design provides variable flow through the chiller at all times and compensates for decreases in the differential temperature. The modification increased the plant’s chilled-water capacity and eliminated the need to invest in an additional chiller. To improve the chilled-water pumps’ performance, Schering-Plough used adaptive control. This advanced process-control technique monitors operating conditions and adjusts components to enable them to operate in the most efficient part of their range, says Pagliuco.

Electricity and heat
Wyeth (Madison, NJ) has improved the overall efficiency of its manufacturing facilities by investing in cogeneration, the creation of electricity and heat from a single fuel source. The company generates electricity, captures the excess heat the process emits, and uses that heat to make steam, according to Gregg Belardo, Wyeth’s senior director of environment, health, and safety.

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
By expanding its use of barrier-isolation technology, Wyeth further improved the efficiency of its manufacturing suites. The technology greatly reduces the amount of air that must be heated and cooled, thus decreasing energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions, Belardo says.

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
These and other initiatives have improved drugmakers’ environmental footprints. As a result of its energy-reduction projects, Wyeth reduced its carbon-dioxide emissions by 41%, normalized to revenue, between 2000 and 2008, according to Belardo. In the same period, Pfizer decreased greenhouse-gas emissions by 43% per dollar of sales, says Brown. Pfizer’s new goal is to reduce emissions 20% by 2012.

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.