Insulating just one industrial valve is enough to power a Tesla


Corporate Innovation & Technical Excellence

Insulation plays the part of the hero. The villain is heat escape. Energy audits performed by KAEFER’s Corporate Innovation and Technical Excellence (CIE) department in collaboration with KAEFER entities in different countries are raising awareness of heat loss from insufficient insulation and working towards a more energy-efficient future.

It sounds incredible, but the energy loss from an uninsulated DN 150/6 inch valve running all year would amount to 10,600 kWh. Transforming that thermal energy with 40% thermodynamic efficiency would give us 4,000 kWh of electric power – enough for a Tesla Model S to travel 20,000 km (EiiF Study 2021).

According to the EiiF study, which also used data from KAEFER energy audits, looking at the whole European Union, the annual energy savings potential from improved insulation is as high as the annual energy consumption of 10 million households combined. These are just some of the insights gleaned from KAEFER’s energy audits, which use advanced technology and calculations to analyse the state of a client’s insulation.

The great escape

Once a pipe system is installed, it’s difficult to see heat loss. That makes thermal energy a master at escaping from areas that are not sufficiently insulated. KAEFER insulation specialists use thermographic analysis to inspect areas in industrial facilities to see what the eye cannot: temperatures. This allows them to record ambient conditions and thermal data to provide clients with an analysis of where energy loss is taking place and where insulation can be optimised.

The economic rationale for improving insulation is as clear as the environmental. As an example, adding 100mm of insulation to just 35 metres of a previously uninsulated 203°C hot pipe can bring savings of up to 24,000 Euros per year in energy costs. Consequently, it would only take a little over 2 months to recoup the investment. In environmental terms, insulating those 35 metres would save 137 tonnes of CO2 per year. Taking those figures and applying them to facilities where there are several hundred metres of pipes and other areas that could benefit from better insulation makes the case even stronger. Also, for plants that are already insulated, energy audits almost always reveal significant energy and cost saving potential with an average return of investment in less than 2 years. Capturing energy and keeping it from escaping is a simple and logical way to save money and CO2.

Uninsulated fittings (temperature: 162 °C) in a food producing plant. The energy audit revealed a savings potential of 730 MWh/a and 150 tons CO2 per year for the whole plant with a return on investment period of just 0.2 years. Total investment in insulation approx. €3,600 with energy savings equal €17,500 per year.

Uninsulated valves (temperature: 135 °C) in a refinery. The energy audit revealed a savings potential of 1.340 KWh and 270 tons CO2 per year for the whole refinery with a a return on investment period of just 0.7 years. Total investment in insulation approx. €32.400 with energy savings equal €45,000 per year.

Playing an ever more important part in a greener future

KAEFER offers TIPCHECK (Technical Insulation Performance Check) energy audit training through CIE in collaboration with the European Industrial Insulation Foundation (EiiF). In January 2021 in Bremen, 22 participants from 10 companies and 9 different countries learned how to carry out an energy audit according to TIPCHECK standards. There were detailed explanations of how data could be collected and reported, and participants learned about the requirements of ISO 50001 and EN16247 energy management systems. They were also introduced to the TIPCHECK Based Inspections App, which provides an overview of potential energy savings. This training allows KAEFER to play an increasing role in helping clients and partners to achieve the targets outlined in the European Green Deal. In many cases, when it comes to insufficient insulation, the cost of CO2 emissions can actually exceed energy costs and it’s also expected that prices per tonne of CO2 will increase. This is why energy audits and insulation optimisation simply make sense for companies and facilities working towards achieving ever more stringent targets.

Energy audits are good for clients, the environment and KAEFER as well.

More efficiency, more sustainability

Energy audits are an excellent way to further increase sustainability not just for our clients, but KAEFER as well. In addition to the revenue generated by performing the analysis, there is a great deal of potential for follow-up orders for insulation services. On top of that, it’s a simple and effective way to demonstrate specialist expertise and to increase awareness not just of KAEFER but of the environmental benefits of a proactive insulation approach.

Thomas-Peter Wilk, Head of Corporate Innovation & Technical Excellence explains, “With technically proven technology such as insulation materials and energy audits, considerable heat loss savings can be achieved in existing plants without the development of new technology or solutions. The payback periods for the necessary investments are usually less than two years. In addition to the savings on the energy cost side, our insulation systems are an active contribution to environmental protection – demonstrating actions rather than words.”

It is hoped that understanding the key role insulation plays in optimising costs and energy consumption will lead to better and more efficient industrial facilities in the future.

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