16 February 2008

Heat Mining in West Virginia

Many heavy industries create large amounts of waste heat, that are simply lost to the environment. Recycled Energy Development LLC is in the business of mining that heat and making it work productively.
Producing silicon, the economic workhorse found in commodities from computer chips to aluminum beer cans, takes way more energy than lighting Wrigley Field for a doubleheader...It's a very heat-intense process.

Quartz rocks placed in electric-arc furnaces exude oxygen as superheated gas, leaving molten silicon. Just venting all that heat without setting something afire is a concern. But what has been a problem has become an opportunity for a Westmont-based firm, Recycled Energy Development LLC.

...It will cost an estimated $45 million to $55 million to build the system, which will generate more than 40 megawatts of electricity. That is enough to power 20,000 homes and will supply about one-third of the silicon-maker's power needs, said Sean Casten, Recycled Energy's chief executive....Globe Metallurgical will buy that electricity for 25 years at a set cost, said Casten, because unlike juice from the electric company it is possible to predict decades ahead how much this electricity will cost.

"We know the cost of our capital," Casten said, "and we know the cost of our fuel because it's zero. We're recovering waste heat."...Because electricity is the highest single cost for West Virginia Alloys, locking in a price for 25 years for a major chunk of that power is attractive. Another benefit may come from the new federal energy law that could subsidize plants that recycle waste heat.

Nearly all electricity generated in West Virginia comes from burning coal, Casten said, so when the recycling-energy operation kicks in two years from now it will replace electricity associated with an estimated 290,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.___Tribune
CHP (combined heat and power) is a rapidly expanding way to improve efficiencies, for systems that need both heat and electric power for operations. That includes your home, by the way, if you like being warm in winter, and having hot water for showers and power for electric lighting. One of the more interesting CHP applications coming along is home fuel cells that provide power, hot water, and space heating. When heat-powered refrigerators are better developed, waste heat from your home power generation may even power your refrigerator--reducing your power load.

Efficiencies of up to 90% using CHP are possible, which in big industry amounts to huge savings in both money and fossil fuels.

Interestingly, the world's most efficient CHP plant utilises biomass fuels.

This list of biomass projects contains several CHP plants

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Blogger Bruce Hall said...

Henry Ford was a practical engineer as well as a manufacturing mogul. His Dearborn steel plant used the excess heat generated from the blast furnaces to power a steam heating system for all of his facilities in the area. I haven't been able to verify this, but I suspect that some of that same energy was used for his on-site electric power generating plants.

This was in the early part of the 20th century. The concept just seemed to be forgotten.

Sunday, 17 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Very interesting historical example, Bruce. Resourcefulness often comes along with inventive and innovative personalities. Ford's approach might deserve more scrutiny.

Heat mining might be considered the opposite of cogeneration--which is the use of waste heat from power generation for productive heating purposes. Heat mining is the generation of power from what would otherwise be waste heat. It is easy to see how the two could feed off each other to get the most from the available energy.

I lump them both under "combined heat and power."

Monday, 18 February, 2008  

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