As prolific importers of pumps into Australia, we work hard to stay current on issues that affect our customers. In the industrial sector, a sizeable amount of technology development is being directed toward saving energy in industrial and pumping processes. In fact, many scientists and engineers now use water usage as a tool to uncover energy waste.
Up to now, industry has enjoyed an abundant supply of water to assist industrial processes. It is no accident that so many manufacturing plants are located next to rivers. Water is freely available and easily returned to its source.
One of the more common uses for water in industrial processes is for cooling. Water is used in power plants for condensing steam. It is used to cool molten metal in steel mills. Generally, water is used to cool any machine or part of a machine that overheats in a manufacturing or pumping process.
In the past, water has been readily available and often wasted without consequence. However, we are rapidly approaching a time in which water is at a premium. There are more and more people to share less and less water. Climate change has also caused inconsistencies in water supply.
Drought conditions can severely limit the amount of water that is available while floods can contaminate all of the water in an area. Flooding can also damage the infrastructure in an area, further compromising the availability of water.
Due to these factors and more, water costs are increasing across the board. So much, in fact, that many facilities are treating wastewater to reuse as clean water. Due to increases in costs, there is no pressure on many Industries to reduce their water consumption.
But now, one previously overlooked factor is coming to light with more and more engineers and project managers aware of it. This factor: the use of water often indicates that energy is being wasted.
The Culprit: Overheating
In particular, when water is used for cooling in any process, it means that energy is being lost in the form of excess heat. Cooling is obviously going to be necessary and essential in many processes. However, engineers and scientists have noticed that when the need for cooling is reduced, it is always accompanied by a proportionate rise in energy efficiency.
Whenever cooling is required in a mechanism such as a pump or an engine, it means that energy which could have been converted into work has instead been converted into heat. When more heat is produced, it means less of the energy which has been created is being used for the work which is the objective of the process. When this energy is cooled by water, it is basically wasted.
In addition, cooling systems use a lot of energy themselves and cost a lot of money to build, maintain and operate. Look at some of the elements of a cooling system: pumps, piping, cooling towers, radiators, heat exchangers, valves and filters. These are all necessary and they all cost money.
The bottom line is that whenever the usage of water for cooling is reduced, costs for infrastructure, energy usage and other capital costs go down.
Some Processes Intrinsically Require Cooling
No matter how many technological advances are made, some processes are always going to require cooling because of their nature. For example, when refining or chemical processes require high temperature levels, cooling is going to be necessary.
Ultimately, the need for cooling will be controlled or dictated by the equipment being used and the process it is being used for. Engineers are already looking into altering the materials being used in the processes to reduce the need for cooling. The mechanical equipment makes a difference, too.
In addition, whenever water used for cooling has to be evaporated and removed, the cost is approximately $124,771 per year for each gallon of water evaporated per minute. That is a lot of water and a lot of money.
What it Means for Pumps
This work is theoretical as of now, but the information is going to help pump manufacturers and industrial engineers find new ways to reduce energy waste and increase efficiency.