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October 10, 2013

Haldor Topsoe and E.ON to harness excess industrial heat

Haldor Topsoe A/S and E.ON, one of the world’s largest power and gas companies, have entered an agreement, where E.ON will utilize excess heat generated at Haldor Topsoe’s production site in Frederikssund, Denmark, to provide district heating for up to 50% of Frederikssund city’s homes.

In late August construction of a 400 metre long district heating pipeline between Haldor Topsoe’s production site in Frederikssund and E.ONs district heating network began. By the end of this year construction of the pipeline will be completed, and thereby make it possible to transport approximately 30- 35.000 MWh of excess heat in the shape of warm water on a yearly basis.

This water will be fed into E.ON’s district heating infrastructure and corresponds to the annual energy consumption of more than 1,700 households. Simultaneously, it will save the environment from 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 2.5 tons of nitrogen oxides.

“As a manufacturer of catalysts that reduce air pollution and energy consumption worldwide, we have long had our eye on the pollution-reducing potential of the excess heat generated by our plant in Frederikssund. Until recently, however, it has been impossible to harness that heat. And so every year, massive amounts of ‘free’ energy have simply gone to waste. I am pleased that we together with E.ON and Frederikssund Municipality have now found a way to change this,” says Henrik Guldberg Petersen, group vice president for catalyst production in Haldor Topsoe A/S.

Another factor, that has complicated the process of utilizing the excess heat, has been the Danish tax system, as Danish manufactures today are required to pay a 38% tax on the sale of their excess heat. Luckily, this law is about to change as a result of the new ‘growth package’ that was adopted by the Danish parliament last April. 

Either way, Haldor Topsøe A/S was determined to move forward on the project, and according to Henrik Rasmussen, chief operating officer of the Danish E.ON organization, the new setup provides significant benefits and is a sound investment for all parties involved.

“Going forward, it will make our heat production even more environmentally friendly than it is today. Excess industrial heat is less expensive than many other energy sources, and the agreement will make a huge difference to E.ON. In fact, the heat from Haldor Topsoe A/S will represent about 50 percent of the total heat production at our plant,” he says.

Having an additional source of heat also gives the plant an extra production option to supplement its existing gas-fired boilers, gas engines, and electrical boilers. Depending on short-term market conditions, the plant can now choose between four different production methods to provide customers with the least expensive form of energy at any given time.

“All in all, it means a more stable business for us, with a large, predictable supply of heat and stable prices that will enable us to retain existing customers and attract new ones,” Henrik says.
Making catalysts is a heat-intensive business. One of the hottest manufacturing steps is a spray-drying process used to extract a substance called alumina from a solution of 20% solid matter and 80% water. To transform the alumina slurry into a fine powder that can be used by other production units, the spray dryers take in a total of 30,000 m3 of very hot (700 degrees C) air per hour and leave behind a cloud of water-saturated air with a temperature of 125 degrees C. Part of this byproduct is used by Haldor Topsoe to heat its buildings. But once this heat has been extracted, there’s still a cloud of damp air with a temperature of about 75 degrees C to be dealt with.

“Until now, we’ve just been sending it through a glass tube heat exchanger to cool it down,” says Haldor Topsoe’s Technical Director, Vegard Hetting. “But we would much rather see the heat being used by someone else.”

Going forward, Frederikssund’s Director of Planning, Environment and Business, Claus Madsen, believes that the partnership between Haldor Topsoe A/S and E.ON has great potential to inspire not only large but also small and medium-sized companies. “There is undoubtedly a great and untapped potential for symbiosis between Danish companies when it comes to using excess industrial heat in district heating systems - especially since Denmark is a world leader in the area with more than 60% of all households utilizing district heating”, he says.


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