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The Heliex SteamComp is one of three new products launched by Heliex Power. Here we get familiar with it by speaking to two of the development 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?
We’re seeing a trend in several territories and sectors 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, uses up to 10-20% of that heat. Thats good utilisation, 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?
In essence it will reduce fuel bills, shrink their carbon footprint and mitigate their environmental impact. In some markets this generates reductions in environmental taxes/charges too
Those plumes of waste steam that you see in the sky above plants will vanish because all their process steam is used, instead of venting it to the atmosphere, which is an incredible 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 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 global.
As a relatively innovative technology that meets the demands of customers sensitive about energy saving, our leadership team predict that initially, demand will be highest territories sensitive to this already.
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?
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 in 2019.