The need for more practical and economic retrofit solutions to reduce energy consumption at process plants has in recent years become the focus of considerable research funding and commercial development efforts. One particular initiative that PIL has been involved with since early 2011 concerns a project entitled ‘Intensified Heat Transfer Technologies for Enhanced Heat Recovery’ (or ‘INTHEAT’ for short) sponsored by EU Framework 7 funding. This focuses on technologies that can enhance the operation of heat exchangers through energy recovery methods targeted to produce savings of at least 20%.
The consortium running the project benefits from the input of a large variety of ideas and technologies provided by a total of ten partner companies and academic institutions across Europe. Some technologies are already in common use but need more data and exposure whilst others are in the development stage. Each technology is associated with a particular application, limitation and design method.
Fig. 1 Helical baffle type enhancement
The collaborative nature of INTHEAT is intended to bring these technologies together in order to provide a collectively more powerful methodology that will be capable of catering for a variety of services and end-user requirements. Indeed, the work is already beginning to resolve many of the technical obstacles hitherto encountered due to the limitations of having only one or two individual technologies with which to approach a given problem.
PIL’s role in the project chiefly concerns development of a software package (for internal use by the various consortium partners) intended to accurately model the effects of retrofitting a range of different enhancement technologies to both new and existing Heat Exchanger Networks (HENs).
Fig. 2 Coil insert type enhancement
The work includes manipulating the software to make it capable of simulating a range of different heat exchanger units as well as assessing the likely impact of different applicable enhancement technologies within those heat exchanger units – all within the same process flow sheet. These technologies include different types of enhanced tubes, tube inserts, improved types of baffle, higher performance fins, as well as a variety of other products and techniques.
Fig. 3 Twisted tube type enhancement
The INTHEAT software will thus allow consortium partners not just to design an optimised HEN, but also – where appropriate – to select an optimal combination of enhancement technologies within that HEN. This should facilitate both improved throughput as well as reduced energy consumption in most scenarios.