Interview with Adriano Sciacovelli, Associate Professor at the University of Birmingham.
1 What were the challenges behind the assessment of the industrial sites and the technology database you carried out?
Achieve accurate energy assessment of industrial sites and understand techno-economic performance of recovery technologies, including thermal energy storage, are essential objectives toward a full valorisation of waste heat and cold. Nonetheless, achieving both objectives came with a range of disparate and relevant challenges.
Industrial sites often consist of different complex systems which might include sub-processes such as manufacturing, refining, heating, chemicals conversions, but also buildings, offices, and local energy generation resources. To thoroughly assess such sites the so called ‘data-challenge’ has been a crucial one. Industrial sites typically monitor energy data, but it is often incomplete or not available at the right time. This ultimately might prevent to quantify when and where waste heat/cold is available. Consequently, due to lack of well curated energy data, waste heat/cold is often ‘invisible’, in the sense that industrial sites are only marginally aware and not able to assess such so-far wasted resource.
However, access to energy data is only the first challenge to overcome. Analysing such data by means of accurate techno-economic algorithms is also essential. This represented a second key underpinning challenge: developing a whole set of new algorithms, particularly for what concerns waste heat/cold recovery technologies. There has been so far only a very limited number of consistent and coherent modelling algorithms and techno-economic parameters for the entire range of waste heat/cold recovery technologies. This has been a crucial challenge to overcome, and particularly in the case of emerging technologies which SO-WHAT project helped to increase the awareness around. This is for example the case of thermal energy storage technology (sensible, latent, and thermochemical) which is increasing becoming a key enabler of waste heat/cold recovery and crucial focal area for the work carried out at the University of Birmingham within the project.
How did you overcome them?
A new structured methodology and strategy for acquisition, monitoring, cleaning, post-processing, and visualizing energy data has been developed as part of the SO WHAT tool. The methodology guides the end user to all the necessary intermediate steps to firstly assess the quality of the data available, and crucially, where data is missing representative ‘profiles’ are generated and used. This allows to pursue comprehensive industrial assessment also when the information on the sites is scarce – a crucial advancement compared to the currently existing state-of-the-art tools. Uniquely to SO WHAT, monitored live data can feed into the tool directly allowing continuous assessment. Visualization have been also greatly advanced by providing new interfaces through which the end user can thoroughly interrogate the results of the energy assessment and thus ultimately precisely quantify the waste heat/cold resource to be valorised.
A whole data-base techno-economic models for more than 40 technologies have been also developed under the leading effort of University of Birmingham. This empowers the future user of SO WHAT tool to assess the benefit of the whole spectrum of technologies available, from advanced heat exchangers to heat-to-power cycles, heat pumps, thermal energy storage and more. Uniquely, the algorithms capture both the technical performance (e.g. efficiency, power input/outputs, etc) as well as economic parameters (e.g. CAPEX -capital expenditures, OPEX-operational expenditures, etc) – this is a unique feature of the SO WHAT platform enabling both in-depth technical assessment as well as the analysis of the economic viability of each technology.