“Decrease energy consumption of an intensive process…”

From a poster over on Linked-In “Chemcial Industry Networking Forum” group ….
“If you wanted to decrease the energy consumption of an intensive process, how would you use to chose the best renewable energy and energy efficient technogies in such as fast evolving green sector?”

Here’s how I answered. What would YOU say?

Your broad, generalized question has answers on a couple of levels:

1. If you seek to minimize the net amount of energy consumed per unit of output, process designers are very proficient with some fairly well established and mundane-seeming techniques, for example …
– reducing energy waste, eg adding insulation to keep hot things hot and cold things cold, recovering energy when going from higher to lower pressures
– recapturing and reusing energy – generating usable steam from too-hot streams, using excess heat created in one place to power processes in another place
– minimizing the amount of scrap and waste products you produce (It takes just as much energy to make off-spec product that you can’t use.)

2. If your goal is to shift energy supply from traditional to alternative energy sources (eg wind, solar, etc), then the answer may not be so clear. Here are some starter ideas:
– If you need heat energy at moderate temperature (up to a few hundred degrees F) or for refrigeration, consider concentrating solar collectors, with heat storage and supplemental heating, for nights and cloudy days.
– If you need fairly low level electricity capacity for non-critical applications, wind or solar PV, with reliable utility or generator backup.
– Consider using ‘green’ electricity to generate Hydrogen (via electrolysis of water) to use directly in some chem processes, or as a way to store electricity generated from wind or solar.

Following the first path – process optimization – you’re quite likely to create a nice economic pay-off. I’m afraid, however, you’ll have a more difficult time finding an economic win in today’s infant alternative energy business.

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