EMB3Rs consortium meets in Porto, Portugal, to kick-start their ambitious research project.
Some industries spend up to 40% of their total production costs for energy usage. Much of this energy is lost to the environment during industrial processes, so businesses have a strong incentive to recover and reuse their excess heat and cold. For example, cement and steel production processes waste as much as 50% of its energy input, while the wood pulp industry loses up to 65% of its total energy to the environment.
Now, a group of researchers and industry experts have joined forces in the European Research Project EMB3Rs (User-driven Energy-Matching & Business Prospection Tool for Industrial Excess Heat / Cold Reduction, Recovery and Redistribution) to investigate the potential of recycling industrial excess heat and cold. Their aim is to design a platform, that visualises how energy – normally wasted by releasing it into the environment – could be reused as a valuable source for other industrial processes, district heating and cooling or for other purposes.
The researchers will start collecting and analysing a wide range of data from open platforms and demo sites all over Europe. Eventually, the consortium aims to match potential partners, creating synergies between energy sources and energy users, where the excess energy fits to a specific energy demand. This match-making matrix will include the amount of energy, its form, temperature and timing when it can be transferred. In addition, the transportation of the energy will also be modelled on the platform.
This sounds all very promising and fits into today’s zeitgeist for more sustainability. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. “We face a couple of challenges that we need to overcome” says Zenaida Mourão, project manager of EMB3Rs and senior researcher at the Institute of Science and Innovation in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (INEGI) in Porto, Portugal. „Industries often fear any interference in their economically optimized processes. Besides, solutions cannot be customized, as each plant has unique parameters.“
The consortium plans to inform stakeholders in workshops and supports the communication between energy symbiosing industries or districts without having to disclose sensible internal data. „At the end of the project we want industries to have a platform where they can find out in an easy way, how they can save energy and reduce their greenhouse gases. They should also find out if investing into an infrastructure that enables to reuse their excess heat would pay off for them.“ The European Commission supports this project wholeheartedly. “It was quite clear to the expert panel to support the EMB3Rs project because of the bottom-up and user centric approach, clear methodology of the project and interesting case studies”, said EU project officer Pau Rey-Garcia. The H2020 project will run for three years and end in August 2022.