Special Report: Intelligent Energy Solutions


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Researchers in the Competence Center Thermal Energy Systems and Process Engineering at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts provide innovative thermal energy efficiency solutions.

Energy solution research
The energy solution research work and services at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts School of Engineering and Architecture supports commercial enterprises in their efforts to play a role in the energy turnaround. Such support includes the development of systems, processes and products that are sustainable and energy-efficient throughout their entire lifecycle. Together with business partners and other academic institutions, the university is strongly committed to national energy research within the context of the Swiss government’s ‘Energy Strategy 2050’, and is an active contributor to the Swiss Competence Centers for Energy Research (SCCER). In addition, partners in the private and public sectors benefit from the experience gained from the significant number of past and ongoing research projects as well as from networks maintained by the university with numerous research institutions in Switzerland and abroad.

CC Thermal Energy Systems and Process Engineering
The Competence Center Thermal Energy Systems and Process Engineering is a leader in providing innovative and practical solutions for energy solutions in industry and buildings. Its experts develop and optimise concepts, technologies, software and equipment for efficient and resource saving processes and products. Our areas of expertise include, in addition to thermal energy systems and process engineering, heat pump technologies, thermal energy storage systems, process integration and pinch analysis as well as bioenergy processes for heat and power generation. In addition, teaching activities and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities support the work we do in these areas. The key focus is to provide high-end research and development as well as services in the fields of energy, processes and environmental engineering.

Reduce energy cost and CO2 emissions
Rising energy costs and environmental incentive taxes mean that industrial companies must increase energy efficiency to remain competitive. Production processes should not only have maximum profitability, but also conserve resources and produce low CO2 and other emissions. In a related manner, industrial energy use constitutes a significant proportion of most European countries’ total energy requirements. In many cases, the percentage is 20% or more, of which more than half is used solely to meet the need for process heating. Therefore, internal process heat recovery is central to increasing energy efficiency in order to achieve the desired benefit of reducing energy costs and CO2 emissions.

For industrial process operation with significant heating and cooling requirements, a powerful approach to increase the energy efficiency is to use process integration techniques. A particular popular and practical method is to use pinch analysis to meet this need of energy efficient and cost-effective operations. The method provides a holistic approach that focuses on the entire production process and infrastructure, including the energy supply system. The analysis can even be extended to include multiple processes or companies to provide a total site analysis. Overall, the method provides answers to the following questions:

Pinch analysis avoids the imposed limitations when just focusing on optimising the individual unit operations. Experience has shown that the optimal combination of energy flows to recover heat in the overall process can achieve a greater efficiency increase than the often costly efficiency improvements of individual components. Proven results for the overall potential for reducing primary energy demand based on a pinch analysis is up to 40%.

Software PinCH 3.0 – a unique engineering tool for the praxis
The Competence Center Thermal Energy Systems and Process Engineering has worked closely with the Swiss Federal Office of Energy to develop the engineering tool PinCH for the practical application of pinch analysis. The user friendly software enables the user to quickly and easily apply pinch analysis in a systematic and convenient manner, and is being used in industry as well as in teaching and educational courses. Presently, the PinCH software focus has been on the analysis and optimisation of direct heat recovery systems for continuous processes, traditionally the most significant energy consumers. However, additional capabilities are available for analysing time dependent processes such as batch or semi-continuous operation for direct heat recovery opportunities. Although the present version of PinCH provides powerful functionality for the marketplace, it has only has a limited amount of support for the analysis and optimisation of indirect heat recovery (IHR) systems involving thermal energy storage.

To meet the need for thermal energy storage design the latest version 3.0 of the PinCH software has been developed, providing unique and leading technology for the conceptual design, costing and integration of thermal energy storages in batch and semi-continuous processes. It uses as a basic pinch analysis to enable powerful new functionality that supports a systematic workflow to evaluate indirect heat recovery opportunities. This workflow can be easily applied sequentially or in parallel with the direct heat recovery assessment. Key features include the design of the storage network based on the indirect source sink profile, thermocline development in the loading/unloading profile, storage capacity limitation effects charts, heat exchanger and storage network schema, etc. All together PinCH 3.0 provides a unique, first-in-class capability to systematically design practical heat storage systems to be used in industrial processes based on the sound principles of pinch analysis.

In addition to the software, we have, together with support of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, established a Process Integration/PinCH Center, which provides comprehensive support to industrial companies and engineering firms in the fields of process integration and pinch analysis. Our comprehensive services include courses, individual and company-specific training, consulting, coaching and pinch analysis services. These activities are key to promoting pinch analysis in industry and eliminating barriers to greater industrial energy efficiency.

Professor Dr Beat Wellig
Head of Competence Center Thermal Energy Systems and Process Engineering
Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
+41 41 349 32 57