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Used with permission from Ascend Performance Materials

Until recently, it wasn’t unusual to see energy recovery operator Cedric Watson walking around Ascend’s Pensacola plant with an $8 stethoscope hanging from his neck and a yellow legal pad in his hand – the tools he used every day to inspect and keep track of the plant’s more than 5,000 steam traps. Today, he uses a hand-held computer and a high-tech probe that resembles a speed radar gun. The tools, particularly the hand-held computer, have standardized and improved steam trap inspections, saving the plant thousands of dollars in reduced energy costs.

Watson’s leadership and ingenuity are the driving force behind Pensacola’s new steam trap inspection program. He took the initiative to learn how the hand-held computer works, and discovered how its capabilities could help the plant revolutionize steam trap inspections. He married those capabilities with steam trap data and conceived a better way to inspect steam traps.

The plant’s utilities department decided about two years ago to do a sweep of steam traps and develop a trap inspection program to help improve steam efficiency. Past surveys performed by an outside company found that the plant was losing $500,000 to $800,000 a year in energy savings because of faulty traps releasing steam.

Thanks to Watson’s efforts, Pensacola is on pace to save nearly $1 million in reduced energy costs from steam trap repairs this year alone.

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