Managing, maintaining and making the most of a Combined Heat and Power system can offer huge savings, says Nigel Thompson from Finning UK & Ireland.
As the name suggests, combined heat and power (CHP) is a technology based around generating both electricity and heat from a single fuel source.
This is much more efficient than generating them separately because conventional power production creates huge amounts of waste heat and steam that is usually vented to the atmosphere.
However, many facilities in the energy-intensive chemical and process engineering sectors have high demands for both heat and electricity.
By installing an on-site CHP, plant chemical and process engineering sites can take advantage of the heat that is wasted in traditional power generation
According to a report commissioned by the UK Government in 2015, only 36% of the energy consumed by the chemicals sector is electrical, while the rest is used to produce process heat and steam.
By installing an on-site CHP, plant chemical and process engineering sites can take advantage of the heat that is wasted in traditional power generation.
Guidance given by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, updated last month, reported that high-quality CHP plants were reaching efficiencies of more than 80%, while coal and gas-fired plants were struggling to achieve more than 40%.
The Association for Decentralised Energy has estimated that by investing in CHP industrial users can reduce their primary fuel use by up to 30%.
CHP systems represent a substantial investment, and if a site is to make the most of that investment it needs to maximise its uptime.
The best – and most reliable – way of doing this is by arranging an operations & maintenance (O&M) contract when purchasing the system.
Though each supplier will offer slightly different terms, these contracts usually guarantee that a system will receive regular maintenance from expert engineers and that any faults are corrected as quickly as possible.
This can provide peace of mind and save the site operator significant expense over the lifetime of the system.
Finning’s own O&M contracts provide customers with regular services, priority on replacement parts and a guarantee that all equipment used is genuine.
One of the biggest advantages is that the contract specifies that the client only pays when the system is operating, so the company has the incentive to fix any issues as soon as possible.
For most sites it makes sense to have the CHP system run remotely. This not only takes the day to day management out of a company’s hands, it makes sure that all the performance data is monitored by experts that can spot any issues before they cause real problems.
The Association for Decentralised Energy has estimated that by investing in CHP industrial users can reduce their primary fuel use by up to 30%
With so much importance being placed on the quality and efficiency of a system, it’s vital that businesses specify an appropriate piece of technology.
This may seem obvious, but even a mid-sized plant will likely be facing an investment of several hundred thousand pounds.
Although CHP is a long-term investment, it will often have to compete with other potential business projects that are closer to the company’s core area activities.
Furthermore, it may have to compete within a short-term appraisal environment. Yet while a cheaper system may look good on the current balance sheet, it can carry a high cost penalty in the long run.
Assuming a standard 20-year lifespan for a system, the maintenance costs alone will likely be larger than the initial outlay, so making sure that the system is well-built and well-maintained can produce significant savings overall.
Nigel Thompson is sales manager gas power solutions at Finning UK & Ireland