EU paper players can cut energy costs by 50% through heat pumps and steam compressors, says Cepi
08 Feb 2023 --- A joint paper by the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) and the Confederation of the European Paper Industries (Cepi) outlines how to make heating pumps in the paper industry “greener.” Cepi maintains an Energy Efficiency Solutions Forum to enable exchange and learning between front-running companies to implement greener technologies.
Heat pumps today provide about 10% of Europe’s final industrial energy demand and help lower industrial emissions across sectors. Commercially available large heat pumps and steam compressors can heat up to 200°C, which is calculated to have potential energy savings in paper drying of more than 50%.
The EU faces a potential shortfall of approximately 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2023. The International Energy Agency says one step to close the gap and prevent the risk of shortages avoided is to install heat pumps.
“When Cepi launched the Energy Efficiency Solutions Forum exactly three years ago, heat pumps were investigated but were not yet reaching high enough temperatures,” says Jori Ringman, director general at Cepi.
“The industry will continue doing its part in reducing energy consumption and heat pumps can play an important role in that. Combined with access to affordable fossil-free energy, heat pumps will allow for a full transition toward a decarbonized and circular economy based on bio-products.”
Heat pumps for paper
Drying is the most energy-intensive process in creating paper packaging, representing 70% of the energy used by the industry. Cepi recommends the prospect for industrial heat pumps used by the pulp and paper industry to reduce its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Through the candid collaboration between both sectorial associations, the technology now matches our needs. It will be an important building block in reducing the energy needs in the paper industry,” continues Ringman.
As part of the production process, the industry generates waste heat from the paper machines’ drying section, the most energy-intensive process. Heating pumps would repurpose the waste heat to heat the condensate from the cylinders into steam for further drying, creating a more circular system.
The most common type of heat pump is the compression heat pump powered by electricity rather than gas. Currently, the European paper and pulp industry use about 1,200 paper machines, each producing an average of 80,000 metric tons of paper a year.
“The progressive phase-out of the fossil fuel alternative in industrial applications will be essential to building a business case. It will also be driven by high energy costs and the increasing CO2 price where clean energy clearly offers a beneficial solution,” says Thomas Nowak, secretary general at EHPA.
Efficiency of heat pumps
On average, the total electricity needed for the steam used by one paper mill is 30 megawatts – roughly enough to power about 30,000 homes for a year. On the other hand, heat pump cylinders typically require between four metric tons to more than 70 metric tons per hour of steam each. Using lower steam pressures in paper drying by decreasing the heat sink temperature increases the heat pump system’s efficiency.
Heat pumps use a coefficient of performance (COP) to monitor the relationship between the power input and useful heat output.
With COP, the higher the number, the greater the efficiency of a heat pump and the less energy it consumes. For example, a heat pump system with a COP of 2.5 means 60% energy savings can be achieved.
Last year, Cepi called for national governments in the EU to mitigate the mounting pressure gas shortages are putting on the industry as Russian supplies continue to run short. The EU still facing gas shortage is leading to hardships in the paper packaging industry in production and waste management. However, implementing more environmental heat pumps could mitigate the industry’s pressure.
By Sabine Waldeck
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