Instead of relocating due to rising energy costs, a plastics thermoformer becomes a demonstration site for gas utilization.
Gas heat in the thermoforming industry is relatively new.
lastics Cost Saver. Since 1967, Paramount, California-based Benjamin Manufacturing, under President Bill Benjamin, has been manufacturing vacuum-formed bathtubs and patio furniture from plastics. "Recently, I'd been pondering some tough questions about our Southern California location" says Benjamin, referring to rising energy costs that were driving his margins down. Options were to move to Georgia, site of another Benjamin plant, or finding an alternate source of energy. "I love Lotus Land," says Benjamin, an "honorary" Californian who moved here over thirty years ago. "That said, it was up to me to find a new way to fuel the business."
Luckily, Mary Reid, Southern California Gas Company account executive for the plastics industry, was exploring the possibility of adding gas sales in this industry - "A field dominated by electric heating equipment," she acknowledges.
Reid's goal? The creation of demonstration sites to help educate the plastics manufacturing market. One conversation with Benjamin, and the first of four planned demonstration sites was in the works.
"You bring people out to a manufacturing site where they can see if and how things work and you remove the fear of the unknown." Mary Reid Account Executive, Plastics Industry Southern California Gas Company"
Bill Benjamin of Benjamin Manufacturing.
The key ingredient in Benjamin Manufacturing's transition from electricity to gas was the infrared catalytic heater. Vulcan Catalytic Systems of Portsmouth, Rhode Island has pioneered this form of heating in thermoforming industry since 1991. The heaters use a platinum catalyst that chemically converts 72% of the gas into infrared energy at 800 degrees Fahrenheit and without a flame. They can cut energy costs by as much as 70%.*
Since installation of a new gas line in late December of last year, the Benjamin Manufacturing demonstration site test team has been monitoring the results. Benjamin estimates that these savings will rise considerably during summer months, when electric demand charges increase.
As befits a demonstration site, Benjamin expects to learn a lot more about gas heat for plastics. "Benjamin Manufacturing stays in California, my energy costs go down, and I think we're going to be seeing some innovations in the industry as a whole," he says." I've got some unknowns ahead of me, but one thing is certain - the conversion to gas will save us money and, I'm hoping, teach me - and anyone else who wants to come see for themselves - some new tricks."
* Information provided by Vulcan Catalytic Systems
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