Transforming petrochemical sustainability: Low-temperature waste heat recovery

The petrochemical industry is a critical component of our global industrial infrastructure and contributes to the production of thousands of different types of products. However, processing and refining raw materials is energy intensive and carries a high carbon footprint.

Text & images by Climeon

Petrochemical greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are rising steadily despite increasing pressure on the petrochemical industry to improve sustainability. According to a recent analysis, the industry’s GHG emissions must be cut by 46% compared to its baseline trajectory in order to achieve the target 1.5° C temperature rise.

As the industry searches for effective, non-disruptive and cost-efficient methods of lowering its carbon footprint, one innovative emissions reduction technology is well-suited to future proofing the petrochemical sector: waste heat recovery.

Significant amounts of waste heat are generated during refinery processes and new technologies, such as Climeon’s HeatPower 300 system, can convert this waste heat into clean, carbon-free electricity. By doing so, HeatPower 300 provides a viable and effective way to reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency throughout the petrochemical industry.

What is low-temperature waste heat recovery?

Traditional methods of waste heat recovery focus on converting high-temperature heat into sustainable electricity. However, this overlooks the vast amounts of low-temperature waste heat that is produced via refinery processes. In fact, the majority of waste heat generated in the petrochemical industry is classified as low temperature. Until relatively recently, it was not considered cost-efficient to convert this low-temperature waste heat into sustainable power, but new innovations and the latest technology deliver cost-efficient opportunities to transform low-temp waste heat into sustainable electricity.


HeatPower 300 Solution

Climeon’s HeatPower 300 technology uses an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) to enable low-temp waste heat (80 – 100°C) to be converted into clean electricity. Using a hot input source (waste heat), a cold input source (such as cooling water) and an environmentally friendly working media, the HeatPower 300 system acts as a closed-loop system, evaporating liquid into gas before condensing the gas back into a liquid state. This variation in pressure is then harnessed to power a turbine that generates clean electricity, which can be used for on-site power or fed back to the grid.

Low-temp ORC WHR in refineries

Petrochemical companies must transition to more sustainable processes in order to meet environmental targets and comply with relevant legislation and guidelines. Fortunately, low-temp ORC WHR solutions can deliver a wide range of benefits when integrated into petrochemical refineries and plants, including:

Reduced GHG emissions – Climeon’s technology takes an existing byproduct (waste heat) and turns it into a valuable asset (carbon-free electricity). When this sustainable power is used on-site, refineries use less energy generated from fossil fuels and, therefore, reduce their emissions accordingly.
Increased energy efficiency – By converting waste heat into usable and useful energy, petrochemical companies can significantly increase the energy efficiency of their operations and, therefore, generate more value from the energy they are consuming. When energy efficiency increases, emissions reductions are a welcome and natural consequence, thus highlighting the environmental benefits of ORC low-temp WHR in the petrochemical sector.
Reduced energy costs – As refining processes are energy-intensive, reducing energy costs is a top priority for petrochemical companies and Climeon’s HeatPower 300 can help refineries to lower their energy-related expenditure. Transforming an underutilized byproduct into carbon-free electricity ensures refineries are less reliant on the grid, more energy efficient and able to reduce their energy expenditure by generating on-site sustainable power.
Automated energy production – The design of Climeon’s HeatPower 300 system enables clean electricity to be generated 24/7/365, providing hot and cold inputs remain available. Furthermore, this process is fully automated to enable maximum power outputs to be achieved based on the availability of thermal energy and requires minimal on-site maintenance.
No impact on existing processes – Operational disruption can be costly for any petrochemical company and must be avoided wherever possible. While some emissions reduction solutions may negatively impact on-site processes, this isn’t the case with low-temp ORC waste heat recovery. In fact, Climeon’s HeatPower 300 technology has no negative impact on existing processes and simply captures and recovers the waste heat they produce before converting it into usable, sustainable electricity.
Enhanced energy stability – A reliable source of energy is critical to petrochemical operations, and the intermittent nature of many forms of renewable power is likely to be a key challenge when it comes to increasing sustainability throughout the sector.

As the technology is non-weather-dependent, it provides a reliable and consistent source of clean electricity. By generating this sustainable energy on site, petrochemical companies and refineries can enhance energy stability and ensure they have constant access to dependable, sustainable power.

Modular and scalable design

Each Climeon HeatPower 300 unit is capable of generating up to 355kW of clean electricity, but multiple units can be integrated into a single system to increase sustainable power outputs. This modular and scalable design allows petrochemical companies to utilize all of the low-temp waste heat that’s generated on site to enhance emissions reductions and increase energy efficiency. The widespread production of waste heat throughout the sector ensures that this technology is a well-suited and lucrative method of emissions reduction at most petrochemical refineries and plants. By delivering both environmental and economic benefits, the technology empowers petrochemical companies to reduce their carbon footprint while boosting energy independence and lowering energy costs.

Closed-loop ORC principle converts liquid into gas and vice versa enabling the generation of more carbon-free electricity.
Closed-loop ORC principle converts liquid into gas and vice versa enabling the generation of more carbon-free electricity.

About this Featured Story

This Featured Story was first published in Heat Exchanger World Magazine in March 2024. To read more Featured Stories and many other articles, subscribe to our print magazine.

Featured Stories are regularly shared with our Heat Exchanger World community. Join us and share your own Featured Story on Heat Exchanger World online and in print.

Previous articleUltrasonic AM enables advancements in heat exchanger technology
Heat Exchanger World is a leading international magazine covering all aspects of the product supply chain of heat exchangers. Heat Exchanger World is part of the KCI Group of Companies. We are a leading knowledge, communication and information company connecting business-to-business professionals by building and sustaining global communities, solving their information needs and helping them to develop their professional life and friendships.