Industrial cogenerators are energy production plants that manage to combine the production of electrical and thermal energy simultaneously in the same process. The result of this technology is an average saving of the fuel that powers the processes of 30%, thus positively impacting not only the company’s profit and loss account, but also the rationalisation of natural resources, whether from primary or exhaustible sources. In addition to this, there is a broad international initiative underway to decarbonise electricity production.
Cogeneration is a technology that was created to increase the efficiency of systems that produce electricity, by recovering the heat that is produced in the process, which would otherwise be considered no waste, and thus preventing its dispersion. Cogeneration plants consist of three elements:
- the initial engine from which the process starts. It can be of different types: internal combustion, with gas or steam turbines, or mixed, i.e. comprising a gas turbine and a steam turbine;
- an electric generator: after being activated by the engine, it transforms mechanical energy into electricity;
- heat exchangers whose purpose is to collect and prevent the loss of the heat produced. The two types of energy, electrical and thermal, are produced in the form of water, hot air, steam and thermal oil.
The technology is constantly evolving and there are already applications of turbines powered by a mixture of natural gas and hydrogen
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF IMPLANTS
Cogeneration systems have numerous advantages; the first of all is undoubtedly the reduction in primary energy required, because the portion used in the process is used to produce two different types of energy at the same time. This means that consumption is cut by more than 30 per cent, making these systems more economical and ecologically sustainable.
As a result of the application of cogeneration technology, there is a significant cut in utility bills, and with the lower consumption, the CO2 emissions that are produced by energy production are also considerably reduced. Other advantages relate to the plants themselves, which are very often close to the utility that uses them, preventing the dispersion of energy during transmission and transport.
Since they are also integrated systems that can also have a stand-alone function, blackouts due to grid malfunctions can be avoided. With the use of the IBT Group‘s ‘oil-free’ Capstone Turbine, for example, not only can the heat produced be recovered, but also the reliability and autonomy of an all-in-one system can be exploited, in which, by means of an electrical backup, operation is guaranteed even in the event of grid failure.
As a final advantage, it is worth mentioning that, since 2005, cogeneration plants have been eligible for Energy Efficiency Certificates, the so-called White Certificates, which demonstrate the achievement of annual energy savings.
WHEN IT PAYS TO INVEST IN A COGENERATION PLANT
Investing in a cogeneration plant represents, first and foremost, a significant increase in performance and is part of the general path of an ecological transition model devoted to the gradual abandonment of fossil fuels due to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
In order for this investment to be maximised as much as possible, bringing an immediate benefit and significant savings in the long term, it is necessary that the number of hours in which the plant is in operation is high, and that the plant is designed on the basis of the specific energy needs of the company facilities in which it is integrated, and that it is also possibly expanded with applications aimed at increasing its efficiency. Another reason to equip oneself with a cogeneration plant is that these plants can become a supply back-up as an energy reserve at times when the electricity grid cannot respond to demand or when there are malfunctions or slowdowns.