Sustainable Industrial Heat System

The contribution of industry to the transition to a sustainable energy system and reduction of CO2-emissions is essential. Dutch industry requires more than 500 PJ of heat per year. This heat is required to enable reactions, separation processes or for heating feedstocks. This energy demand is almost completely covered by the use of fossil sources such as natural gas, oil and coal. This can be reduced via three routes: process efficiency, reuse and upgrading waste, making the heat supply more sustainable.

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TNO develops innovative technologies and processes that reduce the fossil energy use, energy costs and CO2-emissisions for industry. In this way, we help government, industry and society with a transition to a reliable, sustainable energy system and meeting our climate targets. TNO cooperates with the manufacturing industry and industrial end-users on technological solutions to achieve this more sustainable industry.

Why aim for a sustainable industrial heating system?

Companies are increasingly looking for sustainable solutions for their processes. This is motivated by legislation, consumer demands for more sustainable products and cost reductions. The Netherlands has a large share of energy intensive heavy industry (chemicals, refining, steel, food, paper) with a large demand for heat. By decreasing the dependency on fossil energy carriers, the Netherlands and these industries benefit from increased competitiveness in the global market.

In addition, the Dutch knowledge economy profits from the development of innovative products and processes that have an export potential for technology suppliers. In this way, the transition to a sustainable energy system contributes to reinforcement of Dutch economy and stimulates job creation opportunities.

1. Process efficiency

This is a route in which we develop efficient processes or unit operations for application in existing and new processes, thereby achieving a significant, step-by-step reduction in energy consumption.

In existing processes, implementation is often linked to the replacement or expansion of existing installations.

TNO is working on efficient separation technologies and on key technologies to increase conversion and/or selectivity, including membrane separation, cooled absorption, membrane reactors, advanced distillation and membrane capacitive deionisation (MCDI). In addition, they can be electrically driven (Power2Separate), offering the possibility of replacing fossil energy carriers with renewably generated electricity.

TNO's research has led to several inventions for new products and production processes that are market ready or are already in the market, for example HybSi® membrane technology for purifying solvents and HYSEP® hydrogen separation modules. In this way, we strengthen and help industry and business to become more sustainable.

TNO is working on several projects to reduce the heat demand in processes:

  • In the COSMOS project, TNO and partners are scaling up new stable nanofiltration membranes to pilot scale for the separation of organic mixtures with a 40% more efficient separation process.
  • In the E-Champ project, TNO is working with end-users, technology and system suppliers to develop and scale up a new technology to increase the efficiency of absorption and distillation processes.
  • After successful bench-scale tests at TNO, the Headlines project is developing the knowledge required for the design of a field unit with an electrically driven distillation column (HIDiC), which will make it possible to significantly reduce CO₂ emissions in distillation processes.
  • In the NWO Perspective research programme Microsync, TNO is supporting the development of efficient separation technologies and carbon membranes.
  • Specifically for the recovery of valuable substances, TNO is developing new materials and coatings for electrically driven separation technologies in the NWO Perspective programme ReCoVR.

2. Reuse and upgrading waste heat

Reuse and upgrading waste heat from industrial processes is the second route. This solution is applied more close to the boundaries of the process, which simplifies implementation on short term to some extent. In addition, this is a generic solution that can be in multiple industrial sectors.

Energy that is used in industry eventually ends up in the ambient atmosphere as waste heat. This waste heat is released by active cooling, by flue gasses or by heat losses from installations. Reuse of this waste heat lowers the energy demand of an industrial process, lowers the energy costs and the emissions.

The problem with the reuse of industrial waste heat is that either the temperature level is too low to be reused in the process or the timing does not correspond with the need for heat. TNO develops several technological solutions to reuse this waste heat in cooperation with  industry and technology partners.

Waste heat to process heat

Waste heat can be upgraded to higher temperature by use of heat pump technology. This can be accomplished in several ways. The generic challenges for industrial heat pump technology are:

  • Increase the delivery temperature of industrial heat pumps in order to be interesting for industry to apply. The ultimate goal is to produce steam of 200°C from waste heat.
  • Increase the performance of the heat pump to achieve maximal energy and cost savings for the industrial end-user.
  • Lower the investments costs to generate a feasible business case for the end-user

A large application market with corresponding energy and emission reduction potential exists for industrial heat pumps, if the three conditions stated above are met. At the same time, this is a very interesting market for equipment manufacturers which would be able to supply innovative heat pump technology.

In cooperation with other similar scientific institutes in Europe, TNO has prepared a whitepaper on the relevance of industrial heat pumps for the industrial energy transition and presented this to the EU.

TNO is active in multiple projects in achieving the targets stated above.

  • The LowCapex project aims a developing a full-scale compression heat pump system that generates steam of 120°C out of waste heat of 60°C with a capital costs of 200 €/kWth
  • The FUSE project is targeting higher temperatures. The objective is to develop a 2 MWth system that is able to produce steam of 150°C from waste heat.
  • The next step in the development is set in the ENCORE project. R&D is carried out on somewhat smaller scale (100 kWth) to increase delivery temperature up to 180°C.
  • A thermoacoustic (TA) heat pump is not limited in operating temperatures. The COMTA project aims at heat delivery up to 200°C by means of a in-house developed TA-heat pump.
  • Steam compression technology can be applied to compress (very) low pressure steam to useable pressure levels. TNO cooperates with StandardFasel within the SCHP project on a prototype system that upgrades 0.2 bar steam to 5 bar steam.
  • Steam compression technology is also being investigated within the SPOT project. A concept developed by DBS is tested, in addition to the StandardFasel technology
  • Within the IDEA project, a sorption heat pump is developed specifically for drying processes.

Storage of (waste) heat

Heat that is released from a process at the wrong time, can be stored to be reused at a later time. This can for example be applied in industrial batch processes where waste heat from one batch can be reused to preheat the next batch. Heat storage can also be applied to accommodate fluctuations in either supply or demand. Heat storage can be achieved in different ways, depending on the temperature level and the duration of the storage

Generic challenges with the development of heat storage systems are the efficiency (charge – discharge), stability of materials and investment costs.

Phase change materials (PCM) offer the opportunity to store heat at the melting point of a material. This has the advantage that large amounts of heat can be stored in a small temperature interval. This is an important advantage for the generation of industrial steam. A material with a suitable melting point is selected depending on the application. The FLEXSTEAM project develops a system that stores heat in a very compact way at 150°C.

The application of molten salts is studied for higher temperatures. The molten salt functions both as a heat transfer and heat storage medium. Heat can be transported and stored up till temperatures of 600°C. R&D on this concept is carried out within the SPOT project.

3. Making the heat supply more sustainable

The third route is making the heat supply more sustainable. The use of fossil energy carriers is reduced when a renewable energy carrier is used for the production of heat. In turn, this will reduce the CO2-emissions.

Technologies and labs

  • Carnot lab, development of technology for reuse of waste heat
  • Mollier lab, development of energy efficient drying & dewatering processes
  • Membrane separations lab, development of energy efficiency membrane technology
  • Combustion lab, development of sustainable combustion technology

TNO develop solutions for all these routes and combinations thereof. TNO supplies knowledge of both the technology and the processes and supports industry in their energy transition. The knowledge base is supported by an experimental infrastructure which enables to actually test innovations on a scale level that is relevant for industry.

Our work

Low Capex industrial heat pump

TNO works together with end-users and technology- and system suppliers to develop and test a reduced capex heat pump system that produces steam (up to 5 bara) from waste heat sources from 50˚C tot 80˚C.... Read more
TNO Insights

Next generation of heat pumps developed in collaboration with industry

28 March 2019
Many industrial concerns use gas-fired systems because they need high temperature heat for their production processes. This generates a great deal of CO2 and residual heat. Together with the Smurfit Kappa... Read more
See also
Towards CO2 neutral industry

Jebin James

  • Sustainable Process Technology