Demonstration of High-Temperature Heat Pumps

Photo: Courtesy of Sander Geelen – Geelen Counterflow

Martin Fairbank
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In a blog article last year, I wrote about the potential of high-temperature heat pumps (HT-HPs) to save energy in papermaking.

Heat pumps have been identified as being a key technology for decarbonization of industrial heat supply. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has established a program on Heat Pumping Technologies (IEA HPT) and their Annex 58 website is packed full of information on HT-HPs developments, including a list of 37 different HT-HPs with their technology readiness levels (TRLs). The European Union is also funding two major projects to demonstrate HT-HP technology.

In the first of these projects, the SPIRIT project, with a duration from September 2022 to February 2026, three industrial sites with different processes have been chosen for HT-HP demonstrations, with sink temperatures between 135 °C and 160 °C. The three sites are a sugar company (Belgium), a prawn processing plant (Norway), and the Smurfit Kappa Morava board mill (Czech Republic).

The Morava mill makes 76,000 tpy of corrugating liner and medium. The heat pump will be a four-cylinder piston compressor unit installed in a container and will be supplied by Spilling Technologies, an industrial manufacturer based in Hamburg. It will boost 610 kW of steam from 120 °C to 700 kW at 160 °C. This will displace the production of 0.7 t/h of clean steam from boilers.

The Belgian project will use a heat pump from GEA, a German company providing a wide range of heat pumps to many different industries, while the Norwegian project will use a heat pump supplied by Mayekawa, a Japan-based company with a European division based in Brussels.

A second European project called Push2Heat, a four-year project that began in October 2022, is designed to address the technical, economic and regulatory barriers to deployment of industrial heat pumps and is looking at four different heat upgrade technologies. Two paper mills are involved. The Felix Schoeller specialty paper mill in Weissenborn, Germany is installing a vapour compression heat pump with piston compressors, made by SPH (Germany), and will upgrade waste heat at 40 °C to low pressure steam at 122 °C. The Cartiere di Guarcino décor paper mill in Guarcino, Italy installed a similar heat pump with a turbo compressor supplied by Enertime (France). Waste heat at 85–90 °C will be boosted to two different applications at 117 °C and 140 °C. The remaining two heat pumps being demonstrated are thermally driven; one is an absorption heat transformer provided by BS-Nova (Germany) in a chemical plant and the other is a thermochemical heat transformer at the Qpinch industrial scale testing facility (Belgium).

Meanwhile in Canada, CanmetENERGY, a division of Natural Resources Canada, is continuing to study HT-HPs and carrying out engineering studies. At PaperWeek Canada in February 2024, Charles Rand and Étienne Bernier of CanmetENERGY gave an overview of the technology, and in a separate presentation, Bernier and Francis Fournier of Kruger presented a case study of the use of heat pumps for a tissue machine. An important caveat for any mill considering this technology is that it should only be considered once other fuel-saving options have been explored, including maximizing heat recovery and installing low-temperature heat pumps for applications such as heating warehouses in winter.

There’s no doubt that this is a hot topic around the world as the world looks for ways to reach Net Zero.

Martin Fairbank, Ph.D. Martin Fairbank has worked in the forest products industry for 31 years,
including many years for a pulp and paper producer and two years with
Natural Resources Canada. With a Ph.D. in chemistry and experience in
process improvement, product development, energy management and lean
manufacturing, Martin currently works as an independent consultant,
based in Montreal. He is also an author, having recently published
Resolute Roots, a history of Resolute Forest Products and its
predecessors over the last 200 years.

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Martin Fairbank Consulting

Industry Experience

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  • Biorefinery Development
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