4 steps to optimize process heating

Using process heat efficiently can lead to substantial energy savings.

By Ven V. Venkatesan

Nearly one third of commercial energy used in plants goes to process heating. More efficient use of process heat can result in substantial fuel savings and cost reductions. Completing a detailed analysis of heating needs can help identify the following four critical items to guide optimization: 

  1. Useful heat needed for processing steps or process stages or by the product;
  2. Heat losses associated with the processes that are unavoidable and unrecoverable;
  3. Heat losses that can be controlled, reduced or avoided; and
  4. Heat losses that can be recovered economically.  

Industrial process heating is classified in three categories — high-, medium- and low-temperature systems. Processes such as cracking of hydrocarbons and synthesis of ammonia require high-temperature heating, while fractionation of oils and most reaction vessels use medium-temperature heating. All drying, evaporation and sterilization processes require low-temperature heating. Cost reduction and optimization opportunities exist in all three categories

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