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Process heating is used in many manufacturing plants and constitutes a signficant operating cost,

and in Christchurch in particular, can represent a signficant environmental impact. Process heat is
used for a range of applications, some of the more common including the removal of water (or some
other solvent) by drying or evaporation and the heating of raw materials used in production, for
example in a heated tank.
The most common form of process heat is derived from the combustion of fossil fuels to produce
steam or hot water. Sometimes the heat of combustion is used to heat an inert mineral oil.
The potential for inefficiency, and of course the opportunity to improve performance and reduce
waste, exists throughout the process; from the operating efficiency of the combustion process (e.g.
the boiler), through the insulated reticulation system used to transfer the heat transfer fluid (e.g.
steam hot water or mineral oil) to the end-use (e.g. the heated tank) and the recovery of any
remaining usable heat (e.g. condensate return).
The calculators available on this site focus on an end-use example and the reticulation system, both
of which are downstream of the 'boiler'. The following diagram illustrates the importance of
maintaining efficiency throughout the process heating system and emphasises the magnifying effect
of end-use inefficiency on fuel costs.
The diagram illustrates a simple system connecting a boiler to an end-use via a reticualtion system.
For example, it could be a diesel boiler providing steam to a coil used to heat liquid in a tank. The
efficiency of the three separate components - the boiler, the pipework and the tank - are listed on the
The boiler is 65% efficient i.e. 65% of the energy input as fuel is converted into useful heat
The pipework loses 10% of the heat energy en route, so is 90% efficient.
The tank only uses 50% of the energy received - the remaining 50% is lost to the surrounding
The following example illustrates the potential savings:
To heat the process liquid to the required temperature requires heat to be supplied at a rate of
20 kW.
50% tank efficiency means 20 kW/50%, or 40 kW, needs to be delivered to the tank.
90% transmission efficiency means 40/90%, or 44.4 kW, needs to be supplied to the
reticulation system.
Finally, a 65% boiler efficiency means 44.4/65%, or 68.4 kW, of fuel needs to be supplied to
the boiler in order to deliver 20 kW to the tank. The overall efficiency (20/68.4) is actually less
than 30%.
If the heat losses from the heated tank were reduced so that 90% of the supplied heat was used, the
amount of fuel input could be reduced from 68.4 kW to 37.8 kW. The overall efficiency of that tank
heating process is now 53%.



Although a similar concept to insulating your home, the higher process operating temperatures found
in manufacturing industries can translate into much quicker payback times. Improvements of 3040% in energy utilisation would not be unusal in steam base systems for example. Tanks used for
heating or maintaining the temperature of process fluids are often an area of energy waste, through
heat loss through the tank walls and from the liquid surface. Perhaps surprinsgly, simply putting a lid
on a heated vessel can have the biggest impact on heat loss. Of course, fully insulating the tank and
the lid is the ideal solution.

The tank heat loss calculator is designed to help identify opportunities for improvement. It is not
intended as a detailed design tool and should not be used as such. If by using the calculator you are
made aware of an area where improvements may yield savings in costs, energy and greenhouse gas
emissions and it sparks further investigation, the tool has been used appropriately. We would expect
and recommend that, particularly where the scale of the capital expenditure and process changes
required are signficant, you to seek competent expert assistance to confirm any changes.

The calculator provides for two basic tank geometries - rectangular or round. Once you have
selected the tank geometry closest to your situation, enter the tank dimensions.
Other important factors necessary to calculate heat loss are the temperature of the tank contents
and the ambient environment adjacent to the tank respectively, the normal (or average) level of liquid
in the tank and the thickness of the proposed insulation. To simplify the input data required, the
insulating value is based on fibreglass.
Finally, in order to calculate daily and annual operating costs, daily operating hours and operating
days per year together with fuel type and cost are entered. Entering an estimated boiler efficiency
allows an estimate of the actual fuel saving (rather than just the energy saving at the point of use)
that will result from improving the insulation.
The heat loss is estimated using equations that account for conduction (for the insulated tank),
radiation and convection (for the uninsulated tank) and free surface losses from the exposed
surface of the liquid (when there is no lid).
The calculated cost savings do not account for energy losses in the pipework (e.g. the steam or hot
water lines), which for the purposes of this calculator are assumed to be zero. If you think these are
signficant at your plant, you can enter a combined boiler/pipework efficiency figure. For example, a
boiler efficiency of 65% and pipework losses of 15% could be combined to give an effective
efficiency of 55%.

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Heat loss from a heated tank

Select tank geometry
Round tank

Rectangular tank
Round tank
Diameter, m
Height, m


Height of liquid in tank, m


Liquid temperature, C
Ambient temperature, C
Insulation thickness, m


Operating hours
Hours per day
Days per year


Rectangular tank
Width, m
Length, m
Height, m


Fuel type

LFO (light fuel oil)

Fuel cost, $/tonne
Heat raising efficiency

Savings summary
No insulation or lid, kW (base case)
Insulated tank, but no lid
Fitting a lid only
Fully insulating tank and lid
Total savings potential over base case


Daily energy waste,


Daily energy waste

cost, $/day

Annual energy waste

cost, $/year

savings potential,