Many pulp mills around the world rely on the benefits of cogeneration – the recycling of steam and heat to produce electricity – to help reduce waste, save money and increase efficiency.
At the mill in Thurso, Quebec, for example, small-scale cogeneration is already taking place. Black cooking liquor is burned off, generating heat, electricity and/or stream for the mill, steam gathered from the recovery boilers used during the pulping process is channeled through a waste recovery system on site and pumped back into the mill in the form of energy, and refused biomass can be incinerated on site to generate heat and energy for the mill.
Even though much of the waste is burned and excess steam is captured, there is inevitably some heat that slips through the cracks. A new article in National Geographic says new research is aiming to change that.
A US-based company called Alphabet Energy is developing a thermoelectric chip that can be inserted into any exhaust flue or engine to convert heat into electrical power on a massive scale.
The benefits of the computer chip are noticeable. Unlike “traditional” cogeneration, the chip requires no second-party moving parts or facilities. The device is simply connected by wire to the plant’s electrical system or to the grid, feeding power converted by heat in real time, the article says.
According to Tom Casten, founder and chairman of Recycled Energy Development, a Westmont, Illinois, company that helps factories convert waste heat into electricity, the chip could be an important step towards advancements in recycled energy.
The chip wouldn’t necessarily have to replace current cogeneration systems either. There is a potential that the device could actually work in tandem with current recycling systems in order to exponentially increase the amount of heat that is captured for future use.
Whether its computer chips or traditional means, any company who chooses to use cogeneration technology comes out a winner says Todd Taylor – a shareholder in Fredrikson & Byron’s corporate, renewable energy, securities and emerging business groups.
“Whether you believe in climate change or support carbon cap and trade, one thing we can all agree on is that being more efficient and productive with your existing resources is a good idea,” writes Taylor.
Over the next two years, a large-scale cogeneration facility will be built on site at Thurso that will allow for much of the energy and steam used in the pulping process to be converted into energy and outsourced to the Quebec power grid.
Fortress Paper Ltd. – the owner of the Thurso mill says their large-scale cogeneration will export 18.8 megawatts (of a possible 25 megawatts) to the province of Quebec. Fortress currently has a 15-year contract with the province for this energy.