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Week 4 – Session 24

Energy Efficiency
Waste Heat Exchanger



In the process of managing energy with efficiency, we’ll have a look in this
session on how to recover waste heat from flue gas through a HE, for the
benefit of a district heating system.

If you remember a heat exchanger is an equipment for transferring heat from

one fluid, [for example flue gas,] to another, [for example water,]
without allowing them to mix.
A refinery produces flue gas from several sources: steam boilers [that produce
steam from demineralized water], manufacturing processes and furnaces.
According to Concawe* association a typical medium complexity refinery
may operate 20 process heaters of various sizes.
* Concawe is a division of the European Petroleum Refiners Association. It is a non-lucrative association operating in

Fired heaters
Fired heaters, are specific furnaces that produce heat as the result of the
combustion of a fuel.
It has a radiant section, in which flames heat up the tubes in which the
process fluid flows, and a convection section, in which the flue gas resulting
from the combustion of a fuel with air, comes out the combustion chamber
through an extracting flue gas pipe at a T° of 320 °C. Then, it enters into
another section in which the flue gas will pre-heat the air used for combustion
with the fuel. Finally, the flue gas leaves the refinery, at a temperature of
about 200 °C.

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Let’s have a look now on the reason why we haven’t recovered more energy
and decrease even further the flue gas T° at stack.

Flue gas composition

In the combustion of a fuel gas, a mix of light gaseous HC + sulfur impurities,
several chemical reactions occur at the same time, all of them contributing to
the composition of the flue gas. The main reactions are presented here.

Fuel gas reacts with oxygen in the air to form carbon dioxide (CO2), water
vapor (H2O) and a great deal of energy.
Nitrogen in the air reacts with oxygen to form nitrogen dioxide.

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Because of sulfur impurities contained in the fuel gas, there is a reaction
between sulfur and oxygen to form sulfur dioxide which in turn may react with
oxygen to form sulfur trioxide, giving rise to so-called SOx emissions.

Finally sulfur trioxide reacts with water vapor to form gas phase sulfuric acid.
The wet flue gas contains mainly Nitrogen, about 72% volume, some water
vapor, about 18% volume, some carbon dioxide, about 10% volume, but also
a few parts per million volume [ppm volume] of NO2 and SO2 particles, a few
ppm volume of sulfuric acid molecules, and about 2 MW heat per stack that
could be recovered!

Recovering 2 MW per stack, overall 40 MW [20 process heaters for a medium

complexity refinery], corresponds approximately to abating 110 kilotons of
CO2 per year. To compensate for these CO2 emissions you should plant about
15 million [=140*110000] trees covering about 300 km2, which correspond to 3
times the total area of Paris!

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Waste Heat Exchanger
To be able to abate this huge quantity of CO2 and reclaim the waste heat,
we can use a very particular heat exchanger called “waste heat exchanger”

The operating principle is similar to what was reminded in the introduction, but
this equipment has to face a very specific problem: the Heat Exchanger must
cope with the flue-gas acid dew point, that is to say the T° at which acids
condense and cause corrosion.
With 50 ppm volume of sulfuric acid in the flue gas, the sulfuric acid dew point
is about 160°C. Decreasing the T° below the acid dew point would corrode
the metal tube bundles of a standard shell and tubes heat exchanger.

To overcome this corrosion issue, one possible solution is to coat the metal
heat exchanger with a plastic, not a standard plastic, such as one used to
make bottles or car parts because it can creep under high T°, but an
advanced engineering plastic that will resist both to corrosion and high T°.

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Therefore, it will be possible to recover heat from 200 °C to 120 °C (below the
flue gas acid dew point).

In a Swedish city, the heat contained in the flue gases emitted by several
industrial sites was recovered and exchanged to a district heating network.

The Swedish market context presented the high utilisation of district heating in
Swedish buildings and the environmental context presented a developed
Swedish legal framework for harmful emissions. Considerable reductions of
fossil carbon dioxide emissions have been obtained since the early 1980s
because of high fossil fuel taxes and the carbon dioxide tax introduced in

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