Sarah Connolly, Innovation Technologist at Innovate UK is responsible for driving innovation in the foundation industries. In this post, she explores how innovation in heat recovery can reduce environmental impact and improve competitiveness.
The foundation industries encompass a number of high-temperature processing stages, often using equipment that has been running for 20-30 years.
These furnaces are regularly the culprit of the majority of a plant’s emissions, from the drying process in paper production, the large scale furnaces in metal and glass processing, the high-temperature kilns for baking drying and firing ceramics to the kilns to produce clinker for cement; most of the foundation industries processes revolve around a high-temperature processing stage.
Heat recovery technology prevents the loss of heat to the environment by recycling it through different processes. Bath University estimated in 2010 that the technical potential for industrial waste heat recovery could be 10-20 TWh/yr, the equivalent of powering 2-4 million of the 20 million UK households, with the majority of this stemming from the foundation industries alongside food and drink.
Given energy costs can represent up to 40% of the total production costs for these industries, measures to improve energy efficiency will also reduce operating costs and improve the competitiveness of our UK businesses.
What needs to be investigated?
What use could we have for the heat once captured? Could it be stored for use at another time? Could it be transported locally through hot water pipes or steam distribution networks to be used elsewhere? Could it be recycled within the process route: either applied to a less intensive process step or combined with another technology to upgrade it to a full high-quality heat source?
What happens next?
A vast array of technologies have been available for some time, but often it is not just the availability of technology that is the barrier to implementation. Instead, we need a calculation of the quantity and temperature of waste heat available, knowledge of potential uses and demand, the fluctuating cost of energy and availability of space before the current potential and return on investment can be calculated.
To explore these questions further, please join us for our upcoming webinar series where sector leaders will discuss in more detail the challenges they face and opportunities for innovation in the foundation industries.
The Fast Start Competition, the first collaborative R&D competition run by the Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge, provided up to £5 million for cross-sector, collaborative, short-duration feasibility studies and industrial research and development projects that focused upon common resource and energy efficiency opportunities. The first of 13 successful projects launched on the 1st July.
Heat recovery is the focus of a number of Fast Start projects, identifying best practise across the industries, exploring advanced methods of converting heat to power and developing platforms for facilitating such technology introductions.
Best practice and heat recovery in gas fired continuous furnaces
The Materials Processing Institute (MPI) is leading a consortium across the steel and ceramics sectors to identify and collate and share best practise in the operation of continuous gas fired furnaces and waste heat recovery. New furnace technologies and heat recovery systems will be researched and the potential for their use explored.
The results will be disseminated across the sectors to allow individual sites to complete their economic feasibility assessments into the take up of improved technologies and waste heat recovery.
Power generation and heat recovery from industrial waste heat with advanced CO2 thermodynamic power cycles (PowerCO2)
A consortium from the steel and glass sectors, led by Celsa Manufacturing Ltd, looks to utilise the excess heat generated by these and other heat-intensive industries. The anticipated 10-20TWh/yr of industrial waste heat can potentially be recovered for useful purposes such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems using specially designed energy conversion technologies.
Currently, state of the art energy conversion systems have a captured thermal to generated electrical efficiency of 15%. This project will create an innovative advanced system to double this efficiency target to 30%, ready to be applied to heat-intensive plants to generate electricity ready for use on-site or connection back to the grid.
The full list of projects can be found here Fast Start Project Winners.
A SaaS platform to support process engineering in industrial heat recovery
Through Covid-19 specific recovery funding, JJ Bioenergy received funding to build a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform to help both process engineering companies and industrial customers to calculate the potential of heat recovery technology, compare technology options and connect foundation industries companies to technology suppliers, creating a streamlined process.
This is an exciting time for these industries, with the opportunity for transformational changes in the processes, approaches, or products. For the first time, cross-sector funding is enabling the development of mutually beneficial innovation across these industries, providing opportunities for development of impactful solutions and innovation acceleration.
The area of heat recovery encompasses challenges much wider than technology solutions and we are eager to hear about any ideas you may have in overcoming these.
We are now open for applications for the next round of funding. For details of this open competition and to keep up to date with the new challenge announcements visit the Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge Website.
Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Dr_S_Connolly
You can go to the Innovate UK website