Converting low temperature waste factory heat to electricity

Paul Boughton

Based in Redcar in North East England, DRD Power has just completed the installation of its first DRD Power ORC heat recovery system.  

The system uses Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) technology to generate electrical power using waste heat from industrial process and manufacturing plants.

The DRD Power ORC system is one of the first in the world to generate electricity from low grade heat, in the form of waste steam or hot water, at temperatures as low as 90ºC. In essence, the system features a refrigeration compressor running in reverse to drive an electrical generator.[Page Break]

As well as being one of the few systems to work with low grade heat, for the first time the revolutionary DRD Power ORC system gives operators of large scale process plants and manufacturing facilities an economically viable ORC solution.

DRD Power’s Clive Whitbourn says: “Conventional ORC heat recovery systems use heat sources such as high pressure steam at temperatures above 130ºC to generate electricity.  ORC systems using lower temperature heat sources are typically installed at massive geo-thermal plants and are generally not economical for chemical process plants or industrial manufacturing facilities.”[Page Break]

Clive Whitbourn adds: “The UK process and manufacturing industry generates vast quantities of heat between 90ºC and 130ºC which is currently discarded as waste. If only a small percentage of this waste heat could be recovered and turned into electricity, then this would be equivalent to the energy produced by several large power stations.”

The DRD Power ORC system generates electricity with zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The annual carbon dioxide saving from a 200kW unit is around 750 tonnes and the electricity produced is worth over £100,000 per annum to the operator.

The first DRD Power ORC unit is currently being trialled at Huntsman Pigments’ manufacturing plant in Hartlepool, County Durham. The site produces titanium dioxide pigments, which can be found in everyday items such as paints, plastics, food and personal care products.[Page Break]

The new system has already achieved over 3,000 running hours and is in operation 24/7. It generates over 100kW of electricity for Huntsman from a hot water waste stream. The system is designed to operate with either low pressure steam or hot water from the Huntsman process plant.  The unit is currently using waste hot water at temperatures between 95ºC and 98ºC.  

DRD Power worked closely with Glasgow-based cooling and heating specialist Star Refrigeration on the research, design, construction and commissioning of the unit.  The two companies are currently working together on further DRD Power ORC projects.  

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