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Driving energy efficiency with IE5 SynRM motors

Author : Magdalena Tworus-Stepniak, ABB

21 March 2024

Magdalena Tworus-Stepniak, Chemicals Global Industry Segment Manager, IEC Low voltage motors at ABB, explains why switching to ultra-premium efficiency synchronous reluctance (SynRM) motors delivers higher energy efficiency while ensuring safety in hazardous areas.

The chemicals sector is the second-largest industrial consumer of energy and the third-largest direct emitter of CO2, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). In the current context of the global energy transition, improving energy efficiency in chemical-production processes has become a pressing need.

Motors are at the beating heart of chemical production, where they power critical applications from pumps and fans to compressors. Since these motor-driven systems are responsible for most of the industry’s energy usage they are a logical starting point for energy efficiency improvements. However, efforts to increase motor efficiency must be allied with a high degree of safety - critical in an industry that contains potentially explosive atmospheres.

The new generation of IE5 synchronous reluctance (SynRM) Increased Safety motors, which offer ultra-premium efficiency, provide a solution for both. These new motors offer up to 40 percent less energy losses compared to the more common IE3 motors while meeting stringent safety standards.

Older motor designs continue to waste energy

The European Parliament brought in a new Ecodesign directive in July 2023 that requires newly installed or upgraded motors with power ratings between 75 and 200 kW must meet IE4 efficiency levels at least. Although Ex motors are excluded from this directive, this does mean that the many older motors already deployed in chemical-production facilities with lower efficiency levels continue to waste energy. And since electric motors tend to have a long life, typically 15 to 20 years, these savings could extend far into the future.

However, by taking the opportunity to upgrade to IE5 synchronous reluctance (SynRM) motors, paired with variable speed drives (VSDs), it is possible to achieve a significant boost in efficiency. This translates into very significant energy savings with the potential for a rapid return, often within a year.

Furthermore, reducing energy consumption means a reduction in the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a motor’s lifecycle. Around 97 percent of the lifetime cost for a SynRM motor stems from the electricity it consumes, while maintenance is just one percent and CapEx is two.

Upgrades lead to huge savings in energy

Examples of where IE5 motors yield massive energy savings already exist, such as with the largest producer of nitrogen-based complex fertilizers in the world. ABB has worked with a fertilizer manufacturer to upgrade around 1,000 low-voltage electric motors at its Porsgrunn facility in Norway with more efficient IE3 motors.  75 percent of these motors are paired with VSDs. This has led to annual energy savings of 32-40 gigawatt hours (GWh), and a 12-19 kilotons (kt) reduction in CO2 emissions.

The second phase of the upgrade will see another 2,500 motors replaced by IE5 SynRM ultra-premium efficiency motors. Almost 70 percent of them are in pump and fan applications, expecting significant energy-saving potential.

Safety is key

For applications in explosive atmospheres, certified motor-drive packages are essential. But, until now, suitable SynRM motors haven’t met these safety standards.

ABB is the first company to produce ATEX and IECEx-certified IE5 SynRM motors suitable for potentially explosive atmospheres. These Increased Safety motors offer ultra-premium efficiency, increased reliability and reduced maintenance, thanks to lower running temperatures, longer service life, and a quick return on investment (ROI). They also produce lower emissions and are built without using rare earth elements.

Switching to SynRM technology could also make it possible to use smaller and more cost-effective motors for the same output. For example, in Zone 1, the cooler running design could allow the use of an increased safety motor, replacing the traditional flameproof motor with a special enclosure. In Zone 2, the improved loadability of SynRM motors, which enables more power to be delivered from the same size as an induction motor, is important.

A further benefit of SynRM motors, is that they are compatible with ABB Ability™ Digital Powertrain. This makes it possible for them to be monitored remotely. And replacement is straightforward, with minimal disruption, as they’re the same size as induction motors.

Grasp the opportunity

Several external factors, such as inflation and the current geopolitical situation, are resulting in a heightened focus on cost and savings across industry. This is particularly important in the chemical sector now. Furthermore, it’s energy-intensive nature means there is a growing need for energy-efficient solutions. This is especially true for the electric motors that are at the heart of many processes. With this latest development in SynRM motors, OEMs and operators now have a ready solution to help tackle the pressing climate crisis.

See ABB’s whitepaper to learn more about the possibilities for increased energy efficiency in the chemicals industry.

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