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A case of a European manufacturer in heavy industry

Working with the R&D department of a European in heavy industry, Stim has explored solutions to potentially retrieve and save up to 37% thermal loss throughout the manufacturing processes.

In the long run, this work aims at creating new process solutions in order to meet the new environmental standards soon to be in force in the sector. In the shorter term, as there is a direct correlation between the amount of thermal loss and the total energy consumption used by the process, the company hoped to reduce one of its major manufacturing costs.

 

The challenge

A leader in heavy industry facing their "invisible wall of R&D"

Heavy industries are massive energy consumers, and therefore, are one of the first economic actors to be affected by the new environmental standards. During the last 5 years, our client and their R&D team have made many efforts to reduce the energy consumption of their manufacturing process. Yet, most of these solutions focus on new furnace technologies, while leaving aside the possibility of heat capture solutions in other parts of their heating - cooling - reheating process.

It was until 2020 that the team realized the limits of the system: it was no longer sufficient to massively reduce the total consumption of their manufacturing process by optimizing just the efficiency of the furnace. They are facing what we call “the invisible wall of R&D”, happening when we exhaust all possibilities of significant optimisation in the bits and pieces of the existing manufacturing process. 

To break this wall and obtain another high level of gain, disruptive innovation is the only solution. This also means rethinking the whole manufacturing process from scratch, while taking environmental constraints as design inputs and not just optimization parameters.

It is worth noting that these industries rely on costly assets and long development lifecycles from 10 to 20 years. This means that the R & D team should identify and develop these new disruptive solutions today, so that they are integrated as soon as possible into the 20-year renewal plan for the company's assets.

This means that the work must be started today with the R&D team and at the same time, be integrated into the company’s Renewal plan and piloted at the strategic level.

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Our solution

7 solutions for thermal loss valorization towards zero additional energy consumption in the downstream process

With the R&D director, Stim has implemented a project with 3 steps:

  • Mapping thermal loss and energetic consumption throughout the process, in order to understand the major thermal loss sources and assess the energy reduction potential we were working on. One interesting concept was identified, which is the possibility that 100% of the downstream process could actually be powered by upstream thermal losses - a perspective that R&D teams had never really considered yet.

  • Design breakthrough solutions for a new manufacturing process: understanding the futility of optimizing bits and pieces of the current system, we led workshops with our client’s internal experts to rethink the whole manufacturing process, by looking for drastic gains in terms of environmental performance. The technologies, the process architecture, and even the clients' flexibility expectations were challenged.

  • Evaluation of each solution and its potential both in terms of environmental impact in the long run, as well as economically viable & financial impacts in a shorter term. These solutions, considered “quick wins”, can be implemented in the next 4 years as the first actions in their C02 emissions reduction plan for 2025.

A more thorough test of the technical feasibility and economic viability will also be deployed immediately in 2022, regarding two long-term solutions. Some of the tests and audits will call for collaboration with researchers from Mines ParisTech, while others stay in-house under the direction of the R&D and Technology Department. 

The R&D & the company are hopeful that after these tests, concrete & disruptive solutions can be deployed quickly in a mid-term horizon in order to prepare for the upcoming environmental obligations.

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