All you need to know about advanced high temperature heating technologies for industry
Decarbonising industry means the decarbonisation of electricity and heat with heat being the biggest challenge. In the EU alone, more than 70% of heating and cooling is generated from fossil fuels.
Advanced electric heating technologies offer a variety of advantages such as faster heating rates, higher efficiency, and greater control over the heating process. They are also more environmentally friendly when combined with green electricity.
The technology is already in use in several industries such as the chemical, glass or food industry but its widespread adoption is strongly linked to the economics - the so called elephant in the room. And it is a big elephant. Factors to be considered are energy prices, price risks, volatility, OPEX versus CAPEX but also the development of linked technologies such as grid integration or high temperature heat storage systems.
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All you need to know about advanced high temperature heating technologies for industry
Decarbonising industry means the decarbonisation of electricity and heat. In principle, industry can rather easily decarbonize their electricity consumption, just buy green electricity.
Heat is the real challenge. Industrial heat demands are incredibly diverse, crossing a wide range of temperatures from slightly above ambient temperature for fluid heating to over 1,400°C for steel making. And in the EU alone, more than 70% of heating and cooling is generated from fossil fuels.
Let´s have a look on high temperature heat.
- What technologies do exist?
- Who can use them?
- What are the economics behind?
- What are the links to grid and storage technologies?
Advanced electric heating technologies
Several advanced electric heating technologies for high temperature demand systems do exist already. And they offer a variety of advantages such as faster heating rates, higher efficiency, and greater control over the heating process. Besides this, they are more environmentally friendly which is a kind of a no-brainer as you can use green electricity.
Here some examples:
- Resistance heating: This is a common heating technology that involves passing an electric current through a material with high resistance, such as a metal wire or an alloy. The resistance generates heat, which is used to heat up the material. Resistance heating can be used for temperatures up to 1200°C.
- Induction heating: This heating technology involves using electromagnetic induction to heat up a material. An alternating magnetic field is generated around the material, which induces an electric current in the material, producing heat. Induction heating can be used for temperatures up to 2500°C.
- Infrared heating: Infrared heating uses infrared radiation to heat up a material. The infrared radiation is absorbed by the material, which heats up. Infrared heating can be used for temperatures up to 1000°C.
- Microwave heating: Microwave radiation is used to heat up a material. The microwaves penetrate the material and excite the molecules, producing heat. Microwave heating can be used for temperatures up to 3000°C.
- Graphene heating: This is a relatively new heating technology that involves using graphene to generate heat. When an electric current is passed through graphene, the resistance of the material generates heat. Graphene heating can be used for temperatures up to 2000°C.
- Carbon nanotube heating: This is another new heating technology that involves using carbon nanotubes to generate heat. When an electric current is passed through carbon nanotubes, they heat up, generating heat. Carbon nanotube heating can be used for temperatures up to 3000°C.
If you are an expert for carbon nanotube heating, please drop me a line via juergen.ritzek(at)ee-ip.org.
We are working in a consortium developing solutions for CO2-free methane cracking producing carbon nanotubes as a by-product, mainly targeting use for battery applications. Maybe there is an opportunity to extend the application?
For more information on this project, check https://storming-project.eu/
Industrial use cases for advanced electric heating technologies
There are already industrial use cases delivering improved process efficiency and higher product quality originating from advantages such as precise temperature control, uniform heating or rapid heating rates. As said above, industrial heat demands are incredibly diverse, so you can probably find meaningful application opportunities in many or all sectors. No wonder that searching for some gives you a list of the usual suspects. Here are three:
The chemical industry has many processes that require high-temperature heating, such as polymerization, distillation, and reaction processes. Advanced electric heating technologies can offer precise temperature control and rapid heating rates.
Glass production requires high temperature heat for melting, forming, and annealing. Infrared heating and graphene heating can offer uniform heating and precise temperature control.
The food industry requires high-temperature processes for food processing, such as baking, cooking, and sterilization. Advanced electric heating technologies can offer precise temperature control and rapid heating rates.
Economics – the elephant in the room
One of my colleagues, EEIP president Rod Janssen, loves this phrase and has used it already a couple of times when talking about energy efficiency in industry or buildings. In fact, the whole Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG), an initiative set-up by the European Commission (DG Energy) and UNEP FI in 2013 is centered around this.
When it comes to the economics of advanced electric heating technologies for high temperature demand systems, decision maker in industry will compare them against existing state of the art of fossil-based heating systems. And this is far from being straight forward as many dimensions impact the economics and the evaluation is also impacted by factors such as risk or financial KPIs used in a certain company.
Looking a bit deeper into the economics, you need to distinguish between actual cost of electricity versus cost for fossil fuel, your expectation in regards future price development, regulations, and customer perception. Another way of comparing the two is by mapping capital costs (CAPEX) and operational costs (OPEX).
In general, advanced electric heating technologies tend to have higher capital costs than fossil-based heating systems. However, they have lower operating costs due to their higher efficiency and lower maintenance requirements. Additionally, advanced electric heating technologies do not emit greenhouse gases, so they can avoid costs associated with carbon pricing or emissions regulations.
Obviously, the cost of electricity is a critical factor in the economic viability of advanced electric heating technologies. If electricity is expensive or generated mainly from fossil fuels, then the operating costs of advanced electric heating technologies will be higher than fossil-based heating systems. However, if electricity is cheap or generated from renewable energy sources, then advanced electric heating technologies can be more cost-effective.
Other factors are the impact of economics of scale once these new technologies see widespread adoption or the required skills to operate such systems on shop floor but also on the digitalisation and process control level.
High temperature heat storage and grid integration
New high temperature heat storage solutions and integration with the energy grid can also play a role in reducing risk of advanced high-temperature heating systems as well as improving the business model behind, e.g. by participating in grid flexibility markets.
For more information on grid flexibility markets, please check the OneNet project. EEIP participates in this project mainly in the area of industry customer engagement.
Without going into much detail, here just a short overview of what I am referring to regarding grid integration:
- Demand-Side Management: Heating systems can be scheduled to run during off-peak hours when electricity demand is lower, or they can be turned off during periods of high electricity demand.
- Energy Storage: Energy storage systems can be used to store excess electricity generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, to be used to power high-temperature heating systems when needed.
- Grid-Scale Storage: Grid-scale storage systems, such as pumped hydroelectric storage or compressed air energy storage, can also be used to store excess electricity generated from renewable energy sources
And here a few examples of high-temperature heat storage solutions existing today or likely to come soon:
- Molten Salt Storage: Molten salt storage is currently one of the most common high-temperature heat storage solutions. The system stores thermal energy in the form of molten salt, which can be heated to high temperatures and used to generate steam to power turbines for electricity generation. Molten salt storage systems are being used in large-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) plants and are also being explored for use in industrial applications.
- Thermal Energy Storage with Phase Change Materials (PCMs): Thermal energy storage with phase change materials (PCMs) is another high-temperature heat storage solution that is gaining popularity. PCMs can absorb and release thermal energy during phase transitions, such as melting or solidification. This technology is being explored for use in buildings and industrial applications.
- Thermal Energy Storage with Ceramic Materials: Ceramic materials can also be used for high-temperature heat storage. The ceramic materials can store thermal energy by absorbing and releasing heat during phase changes. Ceramic thermal energy storage systems are being developed for use in CSP plants and industrial applications.
- Flywheel Energy Storage: Flywheel energy storage systems are being developed for high-temperature heat storage. The system stores kinetic energy in the form of a rotating flywheel. The system can release the stored energy as electricity or thermal energy. Flywheel energy storage systems are being developed for use in CSP plants and other industrial applications.
- Liquid Metal Energy Storage: Liquid metal energy storage systems are a relatively new technology that is being developed for high-temperature heat storage. The system stores thermal energy in the form of liquid metal, which can be heated to high temperatures and used to generate steam to power turbines for electricity generation. Liquid metal energy storage systems are being developed for use in CSP plants and other industrial applications.
- Research level: High-temperature superconductors for energy storage
- Research level: Nanomaterials for thermal energy storage
With the decarbonisation of high temperature heat being such an important (and challenging) topic, we would be very happy to receive your feedback and input.
In case you know further solutions or use cases, please drop me a line via juergen.ritzek(at)ee-ip.org.
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