Powering up — and cutting down on fuel costs19/09/2013
In the nation of Lebanon, energy is precious. Because the Lebanese government operates its power plants at a loss and is able to invest little into the existing infrastructure, the overwhelmed power grid has caused a chronic, widespread electricity shortage that's plagued the country since the 1990s. The shortage means that homes and businesses in all parts of the country are subjected to rolling electricity cuts of three to 12 hours each day.
To survive, the country relies heavily on electricity produced by gensets. For many individuals, this means paying a second bill to a private electricity provider, but most businesses run their own generators.
With such high demand in the market, companies like Khonaysser Motors, the exclusive Volvo Penta agent in Lebanon with locations in Qatar and Iraq, do a robust business in gensets. Khonaysser has more than 15,000 genset customers in Lebanon, for whom it provides around-the-clock service and support.
One such customer is Modern Industrial Products (MIP), one of Lebanon's first producers of plastics. Established in1953 as a small family-owned bottle and food packaging manufacturer, MIP now exports to more than 20 countries around the world. The company, which employs more than 120 staff, is based in Mazraat Yachouh, outside of Beirut.
Because manufacturing at MIP takes place around the clock, the company uses five 500 kVA Volvo Penta gensets from Khonaysser to keep operations up and running. MIP has used gensets powered by Volvo Penta since the late 1990s and has regularly updated and replaced its engines to keep up with the changing technology. Yet it still took Khonaysser's general manager, Antoine Khonaysser, nearly a year to convince MIP to switch from the D12 engines in its gensets to the new D13 engines.
Volvo Penta had field tested the D13 with some manufacturers based near MIP's factory, allowing those customers to try out the D13 gensets for three months while Volvo Penta collected data on fuel consumption. Many of these customers were so convinced of the engine's benefits that they switched to the D13 after the trial period ended. MIP owner Robin Hayek watched his neighbors go through testing and saw that they were saving on fuel costs, but he still wasn't won over.
"Our old engines had been very efficiently and reliably providing us with power — they were running for up to 25,000 hours over six years before needing to be replaced. We thought, 'Why mess with a good thing?'" Hayek says. "Changing out five perfectly good engines was a big investment, and we didn't see any need to make it at the time."
Khonaysser believed that if Hayek tried the new engine out himself, he would see the advantages and decide to upgrade. So MIP was given a D13-equipped genset and allowed to test it out for six months. That was all it took; the company has switched out all five of its D12 engines over the past two years.
"The D13 is more fuel efficient — that's what finally convinced me," Hayek says. "We saw that it was worth the investment: by our measurements, our fuel consumption has gone down by 6%, even though we use the same amount of energy. And our old gensets held their value well; they were six years old when we resold them, but we got a good price for them.
"We have been very pleased with what we've been able to achieve with the new gensets. We are long-time Volvo Penta customers, and we believe in their products, but their innovation surprises us every time.
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Email: jennifer [dot] humphrey [at] volvo [dot] com