High level of efficiency for industrial thermal processes

Topic of the month February

<i>all Photos © promeos GmbH, with kind permission</i>

The Schmees Melting Furnace: an industrial furnace with a total capacity of 2MW

Energy efficiency in the metalworking industry

As the price of electric power increases, energy-intensive industries are facing major competitive challenges. In order to reduce costs, efficiency has to be increased and there needs to be systematic investments in efficient technologies. Both medium and long-term, such investments lead to reductions in energy costs, while also enabling growth arising from innovations.

This was the key result of a study entitled “Increasing the Inefficiency of Power-Intensive Industries”, conducted by strategy consultants Roland Berger in 2011.

Increased power consumption is caused not only by an expansion of power-based production processes, but also by an increase in automation. At the same time, energy prices are rising due to higher spendings on carbon certificates and the expansion of renewable energy networks.

But it is precisely within the power-intensive industries that experts see great potential. In the metalworking industry, for instance, it would be possible to save around 40 per cent of electricity costs by 2050. However, this is only possible through targeted investments in efficient technology. According to the study, a total investment volume of €23 billion can lead to potential savings of over €100 billion.

The study also shows that investments in energy efficiency would lead to numerous further benefits, and indeed not just for the user. Suppliers, too, would derive positive, sustainable changes from such technologies.

This is because energy efficiency is turning into an important factor to distinguish a company from its competitors, thus prompting enterprises to step up their investments in research and development, which then creates more employment and growth in sales. This makes energy efficiency a driving force for employment.

<i>all Photos © promeos GmbH, with kind permission</i>

The enclosed furnace chamber is filled consistently with waste gas from two burners

High level of efficiency for industrial thermal processes

Industrial process heat is required in many contemporary sectors of industry. Conventional methods never go beyond conventional electric heat treatment or the use of open-fire gas burners. This causes substantial losses in energy and also additional major operating costs.

“In the majority of applications products must be prevented from direct contact with an open fire. As a result, there is a poor level of heat transition and also an excessive furnace volume compared with the actual capacity of the furnace,” says Ernst Keim, Head of Research and Development at promeos®. “Fully pre-mixing and extensive burner systems have a range of benefits, including a drastic reduction of the required combustion chamber volume.”

Gaining space is of course not the only criterion. Whenever there is an open fire, it does of course impact the immediate local surroundings, so that the refractory material around the heated area is particularly vulnerable. The intervals between maintenance jobs are shortened, and production comes to a standstill at such times.

In view of the rise in energy prices, promeos® technology does of course have the benefit of reducing power consumption. This is because the burning of gas takes place inside high-performance ceramics. This special method of volumetric combustion in the pores of high-performance ceramics ensures that the combustion process is homogeneous, involves a minimum of harmful substances and eliminates nearly all gaseous fuels.

Their combustion heat is transmitted via infrared radiation and convection, e.g. to a steel body adjusted to suit the casting ladle. Radiation from this body and the controlled waste gas convection make it possible to heat up the ladles extremely homogeneously, with infinitely variable output control. The use of the new burner technology saves 60% of the primary energy.

Operating costs, too, can be reduced by over 60%. Thanks to the homogeneous preheating of the ladles, there is less of a strain on the refractory material, thus increasing the life of a ladles. Moreover, the reduction in cleaning and delivery times can also cause a substantial rise in the productivity of the process.

The heat radiation of the ladles is reduced, which results in fewer downtimes of the ladle mechanism. As a positive result, there is much greater productivity and a qualitative improvement of the castings. Even the noise level drops significantly. In total, working conditions in the production halls can be improved substantially.

<i>Pictures © promeos GmbH, with kind permission</i>

promeos® technology can be found in industrial thermal processes all around the globe

10 years of innovations in thermal process engineering.

promeos® was founded in 2003 by Dr. Jochen Volkert and Prof. Franz Durst, as a spin-off from the University of Erlangen and with the aim of taking their new combustion system into serial production. Products were made for the German market at first and, from 2008, for the global market. The brand name merges the names of two Greek gods – Prometheus and Eos.

The aim that was pursued at the time – i.e. serial production of the new porous combustion burner – was successfully and economically implemented by 2009. It was the work of the entire team, consisting of the managing partner, the workforce, the investing partners, business customers and the university that gave its support.

Just over 10 years later process heat solutions from promeos® international are used in industry. Today promeos® technology can be found in thermal processes all around the globe and is used by Chinese steelworks, US automotive suppliers, UK bottling plants, Thai coated film manufacturers, Russian aircraft manufacturers and Australian chemical plants.

This technology is also relied upon by many German SMEs which have come to benefit from such energy-efficient heating solutions. Having grown to a workforce of 40, the family enterprise has now been based in Nuremberg since the end of 2011, when it tripled its assembly space.

promeos® has gradually developed from producing burners to setting up entire plants which it can now deliver as finished, turnkey products. The promeos® service team handles the installation, commissioning and subsequent servicing of each system. As a full-scale service provider, promeos® also delivers training for customers and their service or maintenance crews. Moreover, it provides suitable development and consultancy services.

Frank Lindner