ISMI Study Finds Significant Cost Savings Potential in Fab Energy Reduction

Austin, TX (22 December 2005) - The global semiconductor industry could save nearly $500 million per year in energy costs—or enough electricity to power a small city—by making modest improvements to its tools and facility support systems, according to a study by the International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI).

Similarly, ISMI has found that some of its 12 member companies, which represent half the world's semiconductor production capacity, already are saving millions of dollars yearly from reductions in cleanroom air velocity, air conditioning optimization, ultrapure water reductions, use of high-efficiency motors, and various other energy conservation activities.

The ISMI energy conservation study was prompted by member company and industry concerns over rapid spikes in energy costs, coupled with a continuing commitment to environmental best practices established by the World Semiconductor Council. The data, compiled by ISMI's Environment, Safety and Health (ESH) program, also showcased success stories at member companies that adopted the consortium's recommended practices.

"Energy reduction is a rich source of cost savings for chip-makers, but it often gets lost amid other concerns over fab productivity and equipment issues," said Scott Kramer, ISMI director. "There is also a dearth of reliable data throughout the industry. Only a few fabs in the world accurately measure their energy consumption, and so progress is usually hard to measure in most factories."

However, energy use reduction has been part of ESH efforts at ISMI and SEMATECH since 1997, when the program completed the industry's first comprehensive fab energy use survey. Since then, the program has published 26 technology transfer reports and dozens of presentations available only to members, which collectively documented best practices for energy and resource conservation. These include:

  • Enabling and using the "idle" mode in vacuum pumps
  • Optimizing exhaust flows on tools
  • Lowering cleanroom airflow through HEPA filters
  • Optimizing nitrogen use and onsite nitrogen generation
  • Measuring key tools to optimize heat removal

For example, ISMI's ESH engineers have found that new, low-energy vacuum pumps use less than half the electrical power of current versions and can be idled during non-productive periods to save an additional 30 percent of consumption. Similarly, technologists have discovered that exhaust flows can be reduced by 30-80 percent without impacting yields or exposing workers to harmful emissions, for an annual savings of $600,000 per fab.

ISMI members that have imported these and other practices into their own manufacturing operations have realized significant savings over the years. One member company is saving more than $3.3 million per year from cleanroom HEPA velocity reductions, and another has reported more than $3 million in annual savings through various energy conservation activities worldwide. A third company has reduced ultrapure water usage by 94 million gallons per year, saving nearly $600,000 annually.

Overall, the study found that if the entire chip industry were to incorporate all of ISMI's best practices for energy reduction, the total annual savings would amount to 4.8 billion kilowatt hours per year—which amounts to an estimated $480 million, or enough power for 177,000 homes.

"As the semiconductor industry struggles to maintain its profitability, energy conservation is a promising source of cost containment that also carries the important benefit of environmental protection," said Kramer. "This is truly an important frontier that deserves further exploration."

For its part, ISMI's ESH program has launched several initiatives to expand conservation activities among its members and the industry. These include:

  • The ISMI Energy Conservation Working Group, a forum for member company technical experts to review energy projects and discuss technical issues
  • The Supplier ESH Leadership Team, which encourages leading equipment suppliers to develop roadmaps for equipment energy reduction
  • Energy workshops for members to share results of energy conservation projects
  • Leadership in developing equipment energy conservation standards
  • Collaboration with other consortia, universities and national laboratories in developing energy guidelines

"The semiconductor industry has few equals when it comes to resource conservation and minimizing its environmental impact," noted Kramer. "Through these and other activities, ISMI will continue to work in that tradition."

About ISMI

ISMI is a global alliance of the world’s major semiconductor manufacturers, dedicated to reducing cost per wafer and ultimately cost per die, through cooperative programs focused on manufacturing effectiveness.  ISMI is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SEMATECH. For more information, please visit http://ismi.sematech.org

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