Intel is using hot water to cut natural gas use in its factories

Intel’s new manufacturing plant in Leixlip, Ireland, which cost $18.5 billion to build, is replete with technologies touted for conserving energy and water including programmable, all-LED lighting and a water reclamation and filtration system that could save 275 million gallons a year.

One of its more unusual features, however, is an approach that’s often overlooked: capturing heat generated by equipment in the facility and funneling it into production processes rather than expelling it through cooling towers. This was accomplished by the installation of recovery chillers that capture heat created by Intel’s high-temperature manufacturing processes and pipe it in the form of heated water to other places at the facility.

Intel estimates these heat recovery measures will allow it to significantly cut the natural gas it must buy to run operations at the site, Fab 34. It will use nine times as much recovered energy than what is generated by other fuels, the company projects. That so-called “waste heat” can be used for tasks such as preheating the ultra-pure water Intel needs for semiconductor fabrication or keeping buildings at the site warm during cooler weather, said Rich Riley, principal engineer in Intel’s corporate services development group.

“If we didn’t have that heat, we would need that much more gas to facilitate the [heating, ventilation and air-conditioning] operations,” Riley said. “This is an overall reduction of natural gas consumption.”

Over time, Intel’s plan is to build on heat recovery and other energy efficiency measures by updating them with industrial equipment, such as heat pumps, that run on electricity.

Intel’s near-term energy-related sustainability goals include reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 10 percent by 2030 from a 2019 baseline (it has achieved 4 percent as of fiscal year 2022); and conserving up to 4 billion kilowatt-hours cumulatively.


An untapped source of energy efficiency

Intel hasn’t disclosed the potential impact on its carbon emissions this heat recovery at Fab 34 effort could have, but a retrofit using water-to-water heat pumps in Fab 10 (also in Leixlip) will save an estimated 18.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. It will reduce Scope 1 emissions by about 4,760 metric tons, but Scope 2 emissions will increase by about 1,627 metric tons because of the electricity needed for the heat pumps.

Industrial energy remains a thorny challenge for corporate sustainability teams: An estimated 20 percent to 25 percent of energy consumed globally by industrial sources is still predominantly powered by coal and natural gas, according to the International Energy Agency.

The potential energy cost savings of using recovered waste heat for industrial processes, district heating applications or to generate electricity could reach up to $152.5 billion annually, slightly less than half the value of the natural gas imported by the European Union in 2022, according to a McKinsey report published in November. The analysis estimates the global recoverable heat potential is at least 3,100 terawatt-hours.

“In our view, if you want to decarbonize, heat recovery and waste heat is one of the most economical levers available,” said Ken Somers, a McKinsey partner who was one of the report’s authors. One barrier to adoption has been low natural gas prices, but tariffs and supply shortages have prompted companies to rethink their dependence, he said.

The industrial heat pump technology needed to move heat from where it’s generated to where it’s needed in a production process is also maturing. The potential for manufacturers of chemicals, consumer products, food and pharmaceuticals to use this approach is growing as a precursor to the electrification of production systems, said Patricia Provot, president of thermal production equipment manufacturer Armstrong International.

“If your plan is to fully decarbonize, your first step is to get rid of steam and use hot water, and then try to recover as much of that waste heat as possible and put it back into the system,” Provot said.





Source   GreenBiz Group Inc

January 29, 2024