Electrification in the energy sector

Online Editor

Johann Lainer discusses decarbonisation, electrification and the case for modern process heaters

The latest environmental trends in energy processing and other industries are decarbonisation and electrification. The effects of climate change and the desire to create a greener energy source are creating pressures on design engineers in many industries.

According to the We Mean Business Coalition’s Take Action campaign, over 700 leading companies worldwide have committed to reducing their carbon footprint. The commitment to address climate change, reduce carbon emissions and use advanced thermal products to electrify fossil fuel processes comes as a result from pressures in many directions, including these factors: internal pressures to reduce costs and improve performance; and external pressures to comply with national and global emissions standards.

The electrification process

Decarbonisation is the process of reducing the use of carbon emissions and fossil fuels in heating products and other industrial processes. Electrification is the transition to electric heating products for key industrial processes. This transition can look very different from industry to industry, so it is important to work with an expert in electric heating solutions to make the transition smoother and more efficient. At its heart, this process is about tapping into greener energy solutions. Energy sources such as solar, wind and other methods are becoming a more attractive alternative to fossil fuels. Connecting your company with a cleaner energy source helps promote a positive brand and reduce your carbon emissions.

Watlow heat exchangers, power and temperature controllers give design engineers in various industries the resources they need to reduce their carbon emissions. The electrification process is relatively straightforward if a heat exchanger is used in a process. Other heater options, such as radiant heaters, require more creative solutions.

There are important electrification benefits to consider beyond creating a greener company and industrial process. Switching to electric heating products can improve the energy efficiency of a heating process, depending on the heat requirements and type of heating application. Companies can reduce carbon emissions from vaporisers, thermal energy storage, food processing, diesel emissions and other applications.

There are several benefits to be found in replacing a carbon-based heater with an electric heater. Operating an electric heat exchanger can reduce utility costs by 10-30%. The reduction in operating costs comes from increased heat transfer efficiency compared to gas heating systems and, in some cases, reduced costs of electricity compared to natural gas. Not only can a user save on the energy costs of operating a Watlow electric heater, but their overall cost of ownership can also be considerably lower. The combined initial cost, energy usage and maintenance factors cause a traditional hot water or steam system to cost more over its lifetime.

An Optimax heat exchanger can be used to update a current process heating system. This electric heater offers improved sheath, flange and shell temperature accuracies. Enhanced fluid dynamics and excellent pressure drop technology changes the way OEMs and design engineers interact with heaters and thermocouples.

A separate controlling device ensures the technician is safely away from the heating process during operation. Boiler systems require users to empty the tank to inspect the heating device, which takes more time than inspecting an electric heat exchanger.

An Aspyre power controller and F4T PID controller offer easy maintenance and accurate control. Although some people may be hesitant to make the transition to electric heating in their facility, the ease of operations offered by these controllers make the switch well worth the investment. Set up the power controller and choose the optimal firing mode for the situation. Innovative algorithms make it easy to control various heater loads.

Making the electrification transition

Once the transition to electric heating and advanced power and temperature controllers is made, companies will have even greater process control. Log crucial data and use the embedded diagnostics and communication options in the power controller to enable factory and equipment automation. Check with the local utility provider about rebates and other incentives related to electrification. Many utility companies provide incentives to make the change from gas-powered heating to a cleaner alternative.

Watlow is working with its customers to provide the right thermal products to deliver electrification solutions. Some heater systems are easy to transition and offer improved performance features when compared to existing fossil fuel boiler heating systems, but others require creative transitions to decarbonise the heating process. Watlow’s Optimax and Helimax heat exchangers are advanced circulation heaters.

Electrification requires time and creative solutions. There are many challenges to transitioning process heating systems and other sub-systems to a net-zero emissions system, but there are also many opportunities.

Johann Lainer is with Watlow

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