It has been estimated that if the energy currently wasted by all US industrial facilities alone could be recovered, it could produce power equivalent to 20 per cent of the country's electricity generation capacity. Not only would this be achieved without the need to burn any additional fossil fuel, but also help industries to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
In China, which is still managing significant growth despite the worldwide recession, the issue of energy recovery is becoming much more significant.
For example China Energy Recovery (CER), one of its leading waste heat recovery companies, has just announced a record order book worth RMB223m (EUR24.3m). This is a rise of 86 per cent compared with the same time last year.
Upon completion, these projects will generate 174MW of heat energy, equivalent to saving 370000 tonnes of coal equivalent and reducing China's carbon dioxide emissions by roughly one million tonnes.
Quinghan Wu, chairman and ceo of CER, believes it is encouraging that industrial firms in China are becoming more proactive and including energy recovery systems in both their plans for new facility construction and retrofit projects.
"Customers are seeing the tremendous economic benefits of such systems in addition to the need to achieve compliance to government mandates for environmental protection and energy efficiency. Though there are currently impacts on industrial manufacturers like us from the economic downturn and there will be quarterly fluctuations as a result of our order-based business model, our strong backlog orders provide us good visibility for our performance in the next 12 months, especially for the second half of that period. Our pipeline has also been expanding which is expected to further enhance our performance for the whole year of 2009 and beyond," he noted.
And two new contracts show how seriously major Chinese companies are taking heat recovery now.
The first involves the design and manufacture a set of waste heat energy recovery system for Dongsheng Chemical, a large, privately-held chemical fertiliser company in Hubei Province in central China.
This contract is worth RMB12 million (EUR1.3m) and follows immediately after a similar deal worth RMB9.73m (EUR7.2m) was concluded with the Yangfeng Group.
The Dongsheng Chemical waste heat energy recovery system is designed to generate 120t/h of steam, equivalent to nearly 24MW of heat energy generation capacity, and enable the company to reduce its need to buy in steam from outside sources. It is estimated to achieve an annual saving of roughly 52000 tons of coal, thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the site by 138000t/y.
"Winning two large contracts within a one-month period has definitely demonstrated the positive impacts that China's recent stimulus package and the focus on clean energy solutions are having on our business," commented Wu.
Another recent move from CER is the announcement that it's a filed a new patent application with the Intellectual Property Office of China for a waste heat recovery process specifically designed to work in cement manufacturing plants. This is part of the company's strategic initiative to strengthen the protection of its energy efficiency intellectual property and to gain a stronger foothold in the country's cement manufacturing activities.
At the height of the boom last year, new cement factories were opening every 1-2 weeks. However, they are also among the most energy-intensive and polluting industries in China.
Although CER is not revealing too many details about the new process, the company does say that its new technology streamlines the structure of the waste heat recovery boiler in cement manufacturing to improve the reliability and recovery efficiency of the equipment while reducing the equipment size to save costs.
"This patent application is the result of the core technical know-how for waste heat recovery that China Energy Recovery has developed over the years and which can be replicated and applied to different industries. The cement industry in China is one of the major industries intended to benefit from the recent stimulus package passed by the Chinese government.
"It is also one of the industries in which there exists enormous potential for improvement in areas such as energy efficiency and the reduction of harmful emissions and carbon dioxide.
"This piece of technology developed by CER's engineers is expected to optimise the efficiency of recovering the waste heat released from the cement manufacturing process and open up enormous opportunities for CER within the cement industries in China and abroad," noted Wu.
Another player active in the energy recovery business in China is The CarbonNeutral Company, one of the world's leading carbon offset and carbon management companies.
Established in the mid-1990s, the company has worked with over 300 national and international clients to measure and substantially reduce their carbon footprints. To achieve that, and depending on the precise brief, in-house teams run emissions assessments, source and manage carbon portfolios, and design staff/customer engagement programmes.
To meet net zero carbon dioxide reductions, carbon offsetting is part of the strategy and to date the company has contracted with over 200 projects across six continents.
In China, one of its main projects is the construction of a waste heat recovery plant for the Quzhai Cement Works Company in the northern Chinese province of Hebei.
As mentioned above, cement production creates a considerable amount of waste heat which is usually vented into the atmosphere. Up to 35 per cent of the heat used within this particular facility is wasted.
The new equipment will increase the efficiency of the facility by utilising the waste heat to generate electricity for use on-site. The activity will displace electricity generated by fossil fuel power stations, which mainly run on coal in China. Additional benefits include a dramatic reduction in heat pollution within the facility and reduction in local air pollution.
According to The CarbonNeutral Company, it is not common practice in the Chinese cement industry to install such technology and this is the first example within Hebei province.
Carbon credits have allowed the project to become financial viable and this is where funds generated by climate change programmes organised by The CarbonNeutral Company play their role.
Overall the project will reduce emissions from the cement plant by an estimated 50000t/y of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The organisation's next project is located in southern Sichuan Province, a remote and mountainous region of China with much untapped potential for hydropower projects.
Here it is supporting four run-of-river power plants with a total capacity of 17.15MW. The clean electricity delivered to the local grid by this project displaces electricity that would otherwise have been generated by fossil-fuel power stations while contributing to the local economy with jobs and through the improvement of local infrastructure