Heat Pumps: How They Work and Why They Matter for Industrial Manufacturing (PART 6)

Heat Pumps How They Work and Why They Matter for Industrial Manufacturing (PART 6)

What are heat pumps and what are they used for in industrial manufacturing?

A heat pump is a device that uses refrigerant and electricity to transfer heat from a low-temperature source, such as outdoor air or the ground, to a high-temperature sink, such as a building or a process, even in colder temperatures. A heat pump can also work in reverse, providing cooling or dehumidification by transferring heat from a high-temperature source to a low-temperature sink.

Heat pumps can be used for various purposes in industrial manufacturing, such as:

  • Process heating, which involves raising the temperature of raw materials, intermediate products, or final products for various industrial processes, such as drying, baking, pasteurising, sterilising, or distilling. Heat pumps can provide process heating at different temperature levels, ranging from low (<100°C) to high (>200°C), depending on the type and design of the heat pump.
  • Process cooling, which involves lowering the temperature of raw materials, intermediate products, or final products for various industrial processes, such as freezing, refrigerating, chilling, or air conditioning. Heat pumps can provide process cooling at different temperature levels, ranging from low (<0°C) to high (>15°C), depending on the type and design of the heat pump.
  • Space heating, which involves providing thermal comfort for workers and equipment in industrial buildings, such as factories, warehouses, or workshops. Heat pumps can provide space heating at different temperature levels, ranging from low (<35°C) to high (>55°C), depending on the type and design of the heat pump.
  • Water heating, which involves providing hot water for various industrial uses, such as cleaning, washing, rinsing, or sanitising. Heat pumps can provide water heating at different temperature levels, ranging from low (<45°C) to high (>85°C), depending on the type and design of the heat pump.

How efficient are heat pumps for industrial manufacturing?

The efficiency of a heat pump is measured by its coefficient of performance (COP), which is the ratio of useful heat output to electrical input. The higher the COP, the more efficient the heat pump. The COP of a heat pump depends on various factors, such as the type of heat pump (air source, ground source, or water source), the temperature difference between the source and the sink, and the operating conditions.

According to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) , the average COP of heat pumps for industrial applications ranges from 2.2 to 4.5, meaning that they can deliver 2.2 to 4.5 times more heat than the electricity they consume. This is much higher than the efficiency of conventional gas furnaces, which have an average COP of 0.9 .

The efficiency of a heat pump can also be measured by its seasonal performance factor (SPF), which is the ratio of useful heat output to electrical input over a year or a season. The SPF takes into account the variations in outdoor temperature and heating demand throughout the year or the season. The SPF of a heat pump depends on various factors, such as the climate zone, the building type, and the control system.

According to another study by the IEA , the average SPF of heat pumps for space heating in industrial buildings ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 in cold climates (such as Canada or Scandinavia), and from 3.5 to 4.5 in mild climates (such as France or Italy). This is much higher than the SPF of conventional gas boilers, which range from 0.8 to 1.2 in cold climates, and from 1.2 to 1.6 in mild climates.

What are the pros and cons of heat pumps for industrial manufacturing?

Heat pumps have several advantages for industrial manufacturing, such as:

  • High efficiency, which means that they can deliver more heat than the electricity they consume, reducing energy costs and emissions.
  • Lower operating costs, which means that they have lower maintenance and fuel costs than conventional heating systems, especially if powered by renewable electricity.
  • Reduced emissions, which means that they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial manufacturing, if powered by renewable electricity or low-carbon electricity grids.
  • Flexibility, which means that they can provide heating or cooling at different temperature levels, depending on the needs of different industrial processes or buildings.

However, heat pumps also have some disadvantages for industrial manufacturing, such as:

  • High upfront costs, which means that they have higher capital and installation costs than conventional heating systems, especially for retrofitting existing buildings or processes.
  • Installation complexity, which means that they require careful planning and design, as well as skilled installers and contractors, to ensure optimal performance and reliability.
  • Maintenance requirements, which means that they require regular inspection and servicing, as well as proper operation and control, to prevent breakdowns and malfunctions.
  • Dependence on outdoor temperature, which means that they have lower efficiency and performance in extreme cold or hot weather, requiring backup or supplementary heating or cooling systems.
  • Limited temperature range, indicating they may not be ideal for high-temperature industrial processes due to their optimal operating range constraints.

How much can heat pumps contribute to net zero and decarbonisation goals for industrial manufacturing?

Heat pumps can contribute significantly to net zero and decarbonisation goals for industrial manufacturing, by reducing the energy consumption and emissions from heating and cooling systems. According to the IEA , heat pumps could cut global CO2 emissions from industrial manufacturing by 3 gigatons per year by 2050, compared to a business-as-usual scenario. This would represent a 30% reduction in industrial emissions, and a 7% reduction in global emissions.

The potential contribution of heat pumps to net zero and decarbonisation goals for industrial manufacturing depends on various factors, such as the availability and cost of renewable electricity, the development and deployment of low-temperature industrial processes, the adoption and diffusion of heat pump technologies, and the policy support and incentives for heat pump installation and operation.

According to the IEA , heat pumps could constitute approximately 90% of new heating unit sales for industrial manufacturing by 2050, compared to 35% today. This would require a rapid increase in the market penetration of heat pumps, from 1% in 2018 to 10% in 2030, and to 50% in 2050. This would also require a significant increase in the installed capacity of heat pumps, from 40 GWth in 2018 to 400 GWth in 2030, and to 2,000 GWth in 2050.

Are heat pumps future proof for industrial manufacturing?

Heat pumps are likely to be future proof for industrial manufacturing, as they can provide a low-carbon and cost-effective solution for heating and cooling systems. However, there are some challenges and uncertainties that need to be addressed, such as:

  • Technological improvements, which are needed to increase the efficiency, performance, reliability, and durability of heat pumps, as well as to reduce their costs, noise, and environmental impacts.
  • Policy support, which is needed to create a favourable regulatory framework, provide financial incentives, remove market barriers, and raise awareness and confidence among industrial users and stakeholders.
  • Consumer demand is needed to stimulate the uptake and diffusion of heat pumps, as well as to ensure their proper operation and maintenance.
  • Grid integration, which is needed to ensure the availability and stability of electricity supply for heat pumps, as well as to enable demand response and load management.
  • Temperature range limitation, suggests they are best suited for low-temperature applications such as residential heating, thus potentially limiting their broader industrial use.

To ensure that heat pumps are future proof for industrial manufacturing, it is important to foster collaboration and coordination among different actors, such as policy makers, industry associations, manufacturers, suppliers, installers, contractors, and end-users. It is also important to monitor and evaluate the performance and impacts of heat pumps, and to share best practices and lessons learned. By doing so, heat pumps can play a key role in achieving net zero and decarbonisation goals for industrial manufacturing.

Connect with EnerTherm Engineering

Are you ready to explore the efficiency and potential cost savings that heat pumps could bring to your industrial manufacturing processes? Look no further.

At EnerTherm Engineering, we collaborate with industry leaders like Armstrong International to offer you top-tier, tailored solutions that meet your unique needs. Harness the power of heat pumps with our expertise at your side.

Contact EnerTherm Engineering today!

Francois Pierrel
Francois Pierrel
Hi, my name is François and I am passionate about solving process engineering problems. Over the years, I have developed a number of process equipment and control systems which have had a significant impact on reducing energy usage, waste and impact on the environment. My business ethos is to always get to the root cause of problems and data analysis and modelling are always at the forefront of any project we undertake.

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