Edmund Collins writes that using energy-efficient design methodologies in GSK’s Cork plant resulted in significant energy savings during the design phase of the project and a reduced energy carbon footprint for the plant
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Author: Edmund Collins Dip Eng, BSc(Eng), MSc, CDipAF, CEng MIEI, EUR ING, energy and utilities champion, GSK Cork

In October 2011, GSK Cork got funding approval for the design and construction of a new Consumer Health Care plant, which would manufacture the active ingredient for a denture fixative. As this was going to be a high-volume plant and a significant energy user and it was to be the first major project since the site achieved certification to the ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard, we wanted to ensure that the project would consider energy efficiency in the design as required by the standard.

The project was managed by a GSK project manager and his team worked with the engineering consultant’s project team to design, construct and commission the plant. The project teams would have had experience with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) reviews and Hazard and Operability Studies (HAZOPs), but this would be their first experience of using an Energy Efficient Design (EED) approach.

I decided that the review would follow the EED methodology that had been developed by a Special Working Group of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The EED methodology specifies two key roles: the EED owner and the EED expert. As the site’s energy and utilities champion, I performed the role of EED owner and engaged the services of a consultant energy engineer as the EED expert.

This consultant had been part of the Special Working Group that developed the EED methodology and so we were fortunate to have someone with his experience working on the project. Initially, there was some reluctance by the project team to accept the requirement to have an independent review of the design for energy efficiency. However, following meetings with the GSK project manager, it was agreed that the EED process would be followed.

EED reviews


The first step in the EED process was to conduct a two-day energy efficiency review of the project. This took place in the engineering consultant’s offices and was lead by the EED expert with input from myself and key personnel in the project teams. The IPO (input/process/output) for the review is shown below.

Input Process Output
EED ConsultantProject TeamsEnergy & Utilities ChampionOutput from Sustainability ReviewUser Requirements Document

PFDs & Equipment Layout Drawings

Energy Savings Opportunities Register

EED Review Energy and Utilities Requirements SummaryDesign opportunities to reduce energy & utilities consumptionProposal for next phase of the processImpact of plant on key utilities e.g..N2 Plants, Compressed AirPresentation & Report

The review took place in July 2012, which was after the scheme design had been completed and some of the long lead items had been ordered. This was later than would have been preferred, as some key decisions had already been made before the review took place e.g. plant room sizing. However, because of early informal engagement with the project team, the following EED decisions had been agreed:

  • Steam used for the heating skids instead of electricity;
  • Installation of primary air-handing unit (AHU) to treat makeup air;
  • Removal of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) reheat batteries;
  • Air change rate reduced to six air changes per hour in many areas;
  • Widening of environmental control conditions in many rooms (21 Deg C +/- 5 Deg C);
  • Replacement of nitrogen with compressed air for raw material transportation.

A key output from the two-day review was a list of energy saving opportunities. A metering plan for the new facility was also drawn up. Importantly, it was also agreed that there would be regular EED reviews during the construction and commissioning phases of the project. Six of these reviews subsequently took place and they were attended by the EED owner, EED expert, GSK project manager and GSK project engineers. These reviews were found to be very beneficial, as they resulted in additional energy-saving opportunities being identified and also ensured that the plant went into production with energy efficiency as a key focus.

New PictureAs a result of the engagement with the operations team throughout the project and the installation of a good metering system for energy and utilities, it was possible to quickly develop a dashboard (shown above), which ensures that energy and utilities usage are monitored and controlled effectively.

The dashboard is also used to quickly identify unexpected high uses and ensure that energy reduction is being maximised during periods when the plant is not manufacturing product. We now have a dedicated energy engineer working with the operations team in the facility and are integrating predictive maintenance best practices with energy management to ensure that we have a highly reliable and energy efficient plant.

Key learning points


The key learning points for us from using the EED methodology on a major project are:

  • Engage with the project team as early as possible, if possible at the concept design phase and align EED activities with project milestones;
  • Use an independent EED expert to assist the EED owner;
  • Ensure that there are regular follow up meetings with the project team, apart from the main EED review, and record all actions and opportunities;
  • Generate a metering plan for all significant energy and utility users;
  • Ensure that utilities can be isolated quickly and HVAC shut down when not required;
  • Complete reviews of user requirement specification/functional design specification (URS/FDS) for control systems to ensure that energy efficiency has been considered in code design;
  • Ensure that specifications for all significant energy users are reviewed before tendering;
  • Challenge set points for all utilities and also HVAC air-change rates;
  • Complete energy reviews of all commissioning protocols, particularly for HVAC and utilities systems, prior to commissioning.

We found that using the EED methodology was very beneficial and resulted in significant energy savings during the design phase of the project. The on-going engagement with the plant operations team, using a dedicated energy engineer and good performance-management tools, such as the energy and utilities dashboard, will ensure that energy losses and excessive usage will be identified quickly and minimised. It also means that additional energy saving opportunities will be identified and result in a lower cost of goods and a reduced energy carbon footprint for the plant.

Edmund Collins is the energy and utilities champion at the GSK plant in Currabinny, Co Cork. Since he took over the role five years ago, the site has reduced its energy carbon footprint by 43% and has achieved significant energy and utilities cost savings. ISO 50001 Energy Management certification was achieved in 2012 and recently a 3MW wind turbine was commissioned which will provide 30% of the site’s electricity.

GSK is a global healthcare company that researches and develops a broad range of products in three primary areas of pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare. GSK’s Irish operations employ 1,500 people in four locations. Its manufacturing sites in Cork, Dungarvan and Sligo produce high quality products and distribute them through its global network. Its Cork site produces the active ingredients for nine of GSK’s medicines, including treatments for cancer, depression and Parkinson’s disease. Cork was one of the first GSK sites to co-locate with an R&D plant and this has continued with the creation of a ‘second generation’ facility on-site.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/New-Picture4.pnghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/New-Picture4-300x300.pngDavid O'RiordanElecenergy,GlaxoSmithKline,pharma
  Author: Edmund Collins Dip Eng, BSc(Eng), MSc, CDipAF, CEng MIEI, EUR ING, energy and utilities champion, GSK Cork In October 2011, GSK Cork got funding approval for the design and construction of a new Consumer Health Care plant, which would manufacture the active ingredient for a denture fixative. As this...