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UK engineering powers Italian energy efficiency project
UK engineering powers Italian energy efficiency project

A UK engineering firm has installed a patented heat recovery system in an award-winning district heating project in Milan, generating power from a local glass container factory.

Heliex Power manufactures and supplies steam expander systems that generate electricity and thermal energy from waste heat and process steam, often found in factories, distilleries and waste incineration plants. The company’s Italian distributor, SON oversaw the innovative project that utilises the exhaust gases from the furnaces at the Vetrobalsamo glassmaking plant to generate 5MW of free heat for the Sesto San Giovanni area of the city and a further 400kW of electricity for the plant.

This is one of the first waste heat recovery projects of its kind at a glass container factory, where over half a million glass bottles are produced every day, primarily for the wine, beer, oil and beverage sectors.

Following installation, SON was presented with an award from Legambiente, an Italian organisation that promotes sustainability and environmentally-friendly projects. "We're delighted to have received an award for our work on this exciting project, which has been designed around Heliex's groundbreaking technology" commented SON’s Andrea Castiglioni. "The Vetrobalsamo plant supplies electricity for the factory and heat energy to the local district heating system thanks to the Heliex system.

At 111°C, the steam available after the Heliex system is the perfect temperature to supply hot water to the local houses."

Now that it is generating heat and electricity on site and relying less on energy from non-renewable sources, the overall sustainability of the plant has been much improved. The site also uses oxygen-fired furnaces, which reduce energy consumption and many of the potentially harmful emissions associated with glass manufacture.

Based on a steam screw expander, the Heliex system is a novel rotary device that recovers energy from different heat sources. The company headquarters are in East Kilbride, Scotland and it currently employs 26 people based across the UK and in Italy.

Dan Wright, CEO at Heliex Power, said: “SON is doing a wonderful job of promoting our technology in Italy and has worked very hard on this project. The waste heat recovery system at Vetrobalsamo demonstrates perfectly how embracing our technology allows industry clients to increase efficiency, improve profits and really raise the bar on sustainability, in this case with added benefits for the local community."