As the drive for reduced waste levels and cleaner energy continues to strengthen, steam is beginning to fulfil its potential in a number of innovative industrial applications. Chris Gaunt discusses the heritage of steam heating and details its exciting future in anaerobic digestion plants.
Steam has long been a staple of UK industry, from the industrial revolution up to its current use in modern production plants. Industries across food, pharmaceutical, and power, all rely on steam as an efficient energy resource for everything from mechanical power and process applications, to space heating.
Steam heating is part of an incredibly exciting market that demands a level of expertise and specialism from contractors and distributors. With the rise of anaerobic digestion as a way of both reducing waste and creating a sustainable source of energy, there is no better time to look at how traditional products are being used for innovative applications and how distributors are responding.
Water utility companies are under increasing pressure to reduce landfill volumes. Whilst reducing energy consumption, they have also been encouraged to develop ways to offset costs by selling electricity back to the grid.
Using an anaerobic process breaks down natural waste to generate biogas, although a sludge by-product is still created. The pathogens and nitrates must be removed from this material before it is deemed suitable for use on arable land. This is where steam plays a vital role, pasteurising the sludge to remove dangerous bacteria such as e-coli. The steam simultaneously maintains a high temperature, which makes the process self-sustaining.
Breaking down the cell walls of the organic material demands a steam system that will provide a reliable and consistent environment. An initial high temperature of up to 165˚C is required in addition to a pressure of six bar in a plant that uses thermal hydrolysis, with a longer period of up to 55˚C for the enzyme process.
The popularity of anaerobic digestion comes from the resulting 50 per cent reduction in the amount of sludge that is generated in comparison to traditional methods. While the majority of this material can also be used for fertiliser, the ultimate aim of creating usable biogas is also achieved.
The UK has also realised that the growth of the bio-energy sector over the next decade, forecasting that it will generate in excess of £12,000,000,000 in new business opportunities. A large slice of this will cover the supply chain, construction, and operation of the plants which again poses a significant opportunity for manufacturers, distributors, and contractors.
Working closely with Spirax Sarco on a number of projects at anaerobic digestion plants, BSS Industrial is reclaiming its heritage in steam including condensate recovery, steam trapping, and water treatment solutions to design efficient and easy maintainable systems.
The strength and potential of the steam market is reflected by the decision of distributors such as BSS Industrial to take a holistic approach. In addition to extensive product ranges and dedicated technical teams, the development of packages for sludge handling and gas systems are vital to seize this opportunity and provide support for contractors working in such specialist areas.
Established more than 100 years ago, BSS Industrial was originally known simply as British Steam Specialties.
Chris Gaunt, BSS Industrial Key Account Director for the water sector. www.bssindustrial.co.uk