Within the chemical manufacturing industry, there are four main energy consumers: conventional boilers, CHP/ cogeneration, process heating and drivepower. Below, we break down how these four energy consumers are used.
1. Conventional Boilers
High-pressure boiler systems are integral to any good chemical processing plant. In more ways than one, boilers are the overlooked heroes of chemical processing operations. Boilers have a significant impact on the productivity and efficiency of a processing plant.
Chemical processing typically operates in a cyclical pattern. The reactor of a processing plant needs to be heated up and cooled down at very specific times. The steam produced by the plant’s boiler system is fundamental to making this happen.
There are also a few challenges that come with a boiler that can ruin the efficiency of a manufacturing process. For example, fluctuating load demands can require differing amounts of steam throughout the day, which can be hard to maintain without wasting fuel.
2. Process Heating
Process heating is extremely important as the need to transfer heat from one fluid to another is an essential part of chemical manufacturing. Whether it is to assist an exothermic reaction with cooling, or to heat components in order to start a reaction to make a final product, thermal processing is integral.
Although there are multiple ways to integrate process heating into a manufacturing plant, the key issue for consideration is the corrosiveness of the chemicals being processed. When a plant is dealing with extremely corrosive materials, they require higher alloys.
3. CHP / Cogeneration
Combined heat and power (CHP) can be an extremely efficient technology for the chemical manufacturing industry because it contributes to economic and emission savings. Certain CHP plants are able to produce both electricity and steam, which raises net fuel utilization to around 90%.
Demand for steam in the industry is very high due to the nature of the process. Cogeneration offers optimal conditions for the efficient use of energy as plants can combine gas and steam turbines. This maximizes how much electricity is generated in comparison to a cogeneration plant with conventional boiler and counter-pressure steam turbine.
Drivepower refers to the power being used to run systems such as motors, hydraulics, etc. It converts electrical or hydraulic power into mechanical motion (typically rotary) to drive a mechanical actuation system. Within the chemical industry, drivepower is often required for the machinery used to process the chemicals.
Typically, a motor drive controls the speed, torque, direction and resulting horsepower of a motor. Drives tend to fall into two categories: AC and DC. A AC drives controls the AC induction motors, whereas a DC drive typically controls a shunt-wound DC motor, which has separate armature and field circuits. Both of these drives are required to process chemicals.