High-efficiency SynRM motors, a game changer in potentially explosive environments

Magdalena Tworus-Stępniak, Global Industry Segment Manager at ABB

Posted 5/7/2024

The International Energy Agency (IEA) ranks the chemical sector as the second-largest industrial energy consumer and the third-largest direct emitter of CO2. This places the sector at a crossroads where raising the energy efficiency of chemical production processes is vital for a sustainable future. In this regard, the new generation of ultra-premium synchronous reluctance (SynRM) motors, capable of offering IE5 efficiency, is indispensable.

Safety is critical in this industry, especially for applications in potentially explosive environments. Introducing the new IE5 SynRM Increased Safety motors represents a game changer, giving chemical manufacturers access to the most energy-efficient motor and drive technology. The new motors offer up to 40 percent lower energy losses than commonly used IE3 motors while meeting stringent safety standards. 

Image courtesy ABB

Stepping up efficiency with SynRM motors

Electrical equipment efficiency is rated from IE1 (lowest) and IE4 (highest). The latest Ecodesign directive, effective since July 2023, requires newly installed or upgraded motors in Europe with power ratings between 75 and 200 kW to meet at least IE4 efficiency levels. Although Ex motors are excluded from this directive.

Yet, this updated regulation does not consider older motors already in use, leaving many chemical production facilities to continue wasting energy with inefficient IE2 or IE1 motors. This presents a significant opportunity for energy savings by upgrading motors. 

IE5 synchronous reluctance (SynRM) motors represent a substantial boost in efficiency. Moreover, a SynRM motor must be paired with a variable speed drive (VSD) to operate effectively. This means a SynRM motor comes as a combined package that automatically brings the energy-saving benefits of a VSD.

Upgrades yield massive energy savings  

To illustrate the potential, the world’s largest producer of nitrogen-based complex fertilizers sought ABB’s expertise to boost the energy efficiency of its Porsgrunn facility in Norway. The upgrade project will culminate in annual energy savings of 32-40 gigawatt hours (GWh) and cut CO2 emissions by 12-19 kilotons (kt), an amount comparable to the emissions generated by almost 14,000 standard cars. 

The initial project phase replaced approximately 1,000 outdated low-voltage electric motors with more efficient IE3 motors, with 75 percent of the newly installed motors being paired with VSDs. The second ongoing phase will replace an additional 2,500 motors with IE5 SynRM ultra-premium efficiency motors. Notably, almost 70 percent of the motors earmarked for upgrade are utilized in pump and fan applications, presenting significant energy-saving potential.

Harmonizing safety and efficiency using SynRM motors

Certified motor-drive packages are essential for applications in explosive atmospheres. However, a suitable SynRM motor that meets these safety standards has been absent from the market – until now. 

ABB is the first manufacturer to introduce ATEX and IECEx-certified SynRM motors suitable for explosive atmospheres. These SynRM Increased Safety motors offer ultra-premium efficiency, increased reliability, and reduced maintenance, which are attributed to their lower running temperatures, extended service life, and swift return on investment (ROI). The motors are engineered to emit less CO2 and are sustainably manufactured without using rare earth elements. 

Image courtesy ABB

Easier, more economical installation

These motors also help in specifying a more cost-effective installation process. For instance, in Zone 1, an increased safety motor with a cooler running design could replace the traditional flameproof motor, which requires a special enclosure. In Zone 2, the improved load capacity of SynRM motors, which allows them to deliver greater power despite having the exact physical dimensions as an induction motor, becomes a valuable feature. This opens the possibility of using smaller and more cost-effective motors to achieve the same operational output.  

Furthermore, SynRM motors present a smooth transition for companies looking to upgrade their infrastructure. Being the same size as induction motors means replacement is straightforward, causing minimal process disruption. These motors are also compatible with ABB Ability™ Digital Powertrain, offering the capability for remote monitoring of the processes powered by electrical motors.

Long-term energy savings

Reducing energy consumption also significantly reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) over a motor’s lifecycle. Initially, lower-efficiency motors may seem budget-friendly due to their lower upfront costs. Yet, around 97 percent of the lifetime cost for a SynRM motor stems from the electricity it consumes throughout its service life – comparatively, maintenance accounts for only one percent and CapEx for two.

Seize the occasion with SynRM motors

The ever-increasing demand in the energy-intensive chemical sector amplifies the urgency for rapid energy efficiency solutions. The necessary technology is already developed and accessible to combat the pressing climate crisis. It’s now time to harness these solutions.  

Learn more about the energy efficiency possibilities within the chemical sector in our whitepaper.


Magdalena Tworus-Stępniak

Magdalena Tworus-Stępniak: Chemicals Global Industry Segment Manager, IEC Low voltage motors at ABB, explains the dual benefits for the chemical industry, which can now ensure safety and boost energy efficiency by deploying motors that deliver up to 40 percent lower energy losses compared to commonly used IE3 motors.

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