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The Heliex SteamComp Interview  
The Heliex SteamComp Interview  

 

The Heliex SteamComp is one of three new products launched by Heliex Power. Here we get to know it a little better by speaking to two of the team behind it.  

Bruce Duncan, Senior Mechanical Design Engineer

Marco Iezzi, Director of Thermodynamics and Product Planning

Marco, you spend lots of time out in the field, speaking with customers and attending industry events, what have you learnt about demand for this specific type of technology?

The market is moving away from using waste heat for generating electricity, towards the decarbonisation of heat.

We’re seeing a trend towards using waste heat to generate higher value heat, which makes sense as it gives better energy conversion.

Generating electrical power from waste heat, for example, only uses up to 10-20% of that heat, however, using it to generate higher temperature, higher quality heat, by injecting a little electricity into it, uses up to 90%.

What benefits can the SteamComp bring Heliex’s customers?

It will help them enjoy reduced fuel bills, shrink their carbon footprint and mitigate their environmental impact.

Those plumes of waste steam that you see in the sky above factories will vanish because all their process steam is being used, instead of venting it to the atmosphere, which is a waste of valuable heat energy.

Where can you see this type of system installed and do you have an idea of potential market demand globally?

The SteamComp complements our existing technology, the Heliex GenSet, perfectly, as both machines offer fantastic payback for markets with either high or low electricity prices.

The GenSet is an ideal solution in countries where electricity prices are high because it uses waste steam to generate a low-cost supply of electricity.

Meanwhile, the SteamComp is suited for countries and large industrial sites with low electricity prices because it helps customers save on their fuel using their electricity.

It’s suitable for industries such as paper and board, tissue paper, food and drink. The market potential is truly global.

As a relatively innovative technology that meets the demands of customers sensitive about energy saving, I predict that initially, demand will be highest in Western Europe and the USA.

Is there anything similar to the Heliex SteamComp currently on the market?

Yes, there are similar technologies to the SteamComp but they have substantial differences.

The first is a thermal compressor, which works well but only in very niche steam conditions.   Cheaper than the Heliex SteamComp it operates with limited capabilities for pressure increase compared to our technology and is nearly impossible to retrofit into an existing steam system, unlike the SteamComp, which is easily installed.

Other alternatives are different types of mechanical vapour recompressors (MVR), such as root blowers or turbocompressors.

Typically, these have the advantage of handling a higher volumetric flow than the SteamComp but multiple stages of compression are required to get the same pressure increase, making the overall cost significantly more expensive.

The SteamComp is typically cheaper when the steam flow isn’t high.

Are there any Heliex SteamComps out in the field?

Yes, the first prototype was recently delivered to an Italian packaging company. It will recover low-pressure steam after a bioplastic moulding process (used for making food trays) for preheating thermal oil.

This is a pilot installation and if successful they will look at offering the SteamComp to all their customers as optional heat recovery systems in their production lines.

Bruce, you’ve been heavily involved in the design and testing of the Heliex SteamComp. The beauty of this system is that it’s effectively Heliex's core steam expander technology, this time working in reverse. Has the project been as simple as it might seem?

Not exactly. From a mechanical point of view, the machine behaved as expected but we faced a technical challenge with the control system and water injection for lubrication of the rotors. The team developed the software to overcome it.

On the thermal performance, we found a very good match between the test results and the predictions made with the proprietary software developed in conjunction with City, University of London. Only minor adjustments were required to develop a useful performance prediction tool that’s used by the sales team.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the first SteamComp is received over in Italy.