A new opportunity for industrial CHP?


Large-scale CHP for industrial sites has been the least successful size band for the technology in most parts of the world for quite some years now. Suppliers of smaller, factory-packaged CHP schemes for commercial and public buildings have seen far healthier business. However, large-scale systems for industry – which are all tailor-made one-offs – have suffered from poor performance by some industrial sectors and a lack of confidence in the future for others.

So it’s interesting to see a few announcements in recent weeks of new CHP schemes for industry, headed by new schemes for refineries in Finland and California. A joint venture, Kilpilahti Power, is to build new steam and power plants to serve a refinery and a petrochemical works at Porvoo in Finland; while, a refinery in southern California is to host a new gas turbine-based CHP scheme to supply steam for process units.

World-wide, refineries represent a hugely important sector for CHP – ExxonMobil alone has interests in more than 5 GWe of capacity at 30 locations around the world. Large thermal loads and, as at Porvoo, the availability of ‘free’ by-product fuels, makes CHP technology a no-brainer for these sites.

CHP is almost the default energy technology of choice for some other sectors with high and steady thermal and electrical loads – the paper and board industry and many chemical manufacturing operations. But any industry with sufficient heat and loads can be suitable. Recent weeks have seen the announcement of new CHP plants to serve two BMW automobile production sites in Germany; a coal mine in China; a poultry factory in Australia; and, by far the largest, a 220 MWe CHP plant to serve an aluminium production facility in Abu Dhabi.

Where the fortunes of manufacturing industry are poor or uncertain, then the corresponding market for industrial-scale CHP suffers – we have seen precious little growth in the sector across Europe in the last few years, for example, as manufacturing capacity itself has been reduced. But industries that stay in business – particularly those for which energy represents a large part of overall costs – need to buy and use energy wisely.

That’s why in the UK for example, the Association for Decentralised Energy (until recently the CHP Association) is running a campaign aimed at industrial energy users looking increase their ‘energy productivity’.

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