UK engineers are at the heart of European efforts to develop technology aimed at recovering at least 40 per cent of the waste heat lost in industrial processes.
Led by UK firm ALTEK, and also involving Cambridge-based materials specialist TWI, the EU-funded Smartrec project is focussed on recovering medium and high-grade heat, in other words anything over 100°C.
The project team – which also includes partners from France, Italy, Spain, Norway and Greece – has identified secondary aluminium recycling and ceramic processing as two industrial processes with good potential for heat recovery.
These processes are batch-based rather than continuous, producing flue gas that varies greatly in temperature, so the system will need to be capable of recovering energy from an intermittent and inconsistent source. The hot waste gas is also likely to be highly corrosive, meaning the recovery technology will have to be capable of withstanding aggressive substances.
The consortium plans to create a custom heat pipe heat exchanger, using a molten salt pumping loop including a dual-media thermocline thermal storage system.
Alongside the physical system it also aims to develop a knowledge-based tool containing all relevant Smartrec parameters and information, enabling the system to be fully modelled and supporting integration with users’ existing systems.
The idea is that this energy will then be available for either reuse by the same process or redistribution elsewhere within an industrial park.
Analysts have estimated the amount of energy potentially recoverable from industrial waste heat in Europe alone to be as much as 140TWh each year – enough to supply all of Greater London’s electricity needs for more than three years.