Reusing industrial thermal energy will be simpler thanks to INEGI’s new project
Most industrial processes involve process heating or cooling, which represents more than half of total energy use in the industrial sector. However, it is estimated that 20-50% is lost in the form of exhaust or vapour. Recovering and reusing this wasted energy can have economic and environmental advantages, but it is not always an easy process for companies.
To improve this context, a new European project coordinated by INEGI will start in September with the aim of creating a platform for the simulation of scenarios for the recovery, conversion and distribution of excess industrial thermal energy.
Gathering information in one place - from the latest technologies, to energy optimization and cost-benefit models - will enable stakeholders in various industries to independently explore and evaluate possible solutions for make the most of excess energy, and reduce the time required to carry out technical and economic feasibility studies.
“The recovery and reuse of excess thermal energy can have numerous advantages,” says Zenaida Mourão, project manager and researcher at INEGI. “From an economic perspective, it can be an important driver for energy efficiency and consequent financial profitability. But not only: it’s also fundamental at the environmental level, since 80% of this energy is of fossil origin”, she explains.
The reused energy may be re-applied in the same process, in other processes in the same factory, but also outside the original production site, in other industries or in commercial and domestic buildings, as a potential source of revenue.
Despite the benefits, the implementation of such solutions in companies is conditioned by the complexity of industrial thermal processes, the lack of knowledge of available technologies, and the lack of human and technical resources to carry out a comprehensive analysis and determine the most cost effective options. Another obstacle is the difficulty in establishing partnerships, due to the poor visibility and limited dialogue between companies and entities.
To help industry overcome this barrier, the EMB3Rs project brings together 16 partners - companies, R&D institutions and public entities - from eight European countries (Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom).
The solution that the consortium proposes to develop is based on a collaborative open-access online platform. With this tool "it will be possible to simulate various scenarios, determine the costs and benefits of different technologies and routes of use, and define the implementation conditions needed for the most promising solutions," says Zenaida Mourão.
In addition to coordination, INEGI will be responsible for "defining requirements and models for the characterization of heat recovery options" to be made available on the platform, the researcher said.
Subsequently, INEGI will carry out practical case studies, “in which it will assist in characterizing the excess heat / cold available in partnership with CIMPOR and Climaespaço, and support the choice of solutions indicated by the platform as most suitable for these cases”. This phase, the project coordinator explains, will also include a joint initiative with the Portuguese Energy Agency (ADENE) to "map and characterize excess industrial thermal energy available nationally that can be monetized in local energy systems".
The EMB3Rs project is funded by the European Horizon 2020 program.