Insulation In The Chemical Industry: Increasing Energy Efficiency And Safety
Insulation is essential in the chemical industry to minimise energy loss and thus increase efficiency and profitability. Significant energy savings can be achieved by using heaters, equipment and components with higher standards than the legal minimum requirements. What can be done in the short term without costly modifications to the existing infrastructure?
This is exemplified by DN-150 pipelines in which thermal oil circulates at a temperature of 300 °C. With thicker insulation, around 570 kWh can be saved annually per metre of pipeline. Of course, this requires careful consideration of the savings potential through thermal insulation and the investment costs for the insulation material.
Insulation Of Fittings And Pumps
In the chemical industry, each element must be considered individually, as there are different requirements. For fittings, for example, it is crucial that they are insulated in such a way that any potential leakage is noticeable during the daily visual inspection and no oil can penetrate the rest of the insulation. For this reason, insulation shells that are easy to dismantle and install have proven their worth. In addition, they can significantly reduce the repair effort in case of damage. The use of insulation shells not only prevents unwanted heat loss but also facilitates maintenance work on the fittings.
In contrast, pumps require a different approach. The pump’s bearing bracket must not be insulated under any circumstances. The reason for this is the necessary cooling of the bearings that are installed in the bearing bracket. Insulation of the bearing bracket could lead to overheating and thus to pump failure. Regardless of the safety aspects, however, insulating the pump housing offers thermal advantages. A medium-sized pump operating at a medium temperature of 300 °C and a medium ambient temperature of 40 °C can prevent heat losses of about 2,000 to 2,500 W by insulating the casing. This leads to improved energy efficiency and helps reduce operating costs.
Safety For Employees Through Insulation
Apart from energy efficiency, insulation also plays an important role in operational and machine safety. Employees need to be protected from hot surfaces. From temperatures below 50 °C, protective measures may already be necessary to avoid serious burns. When coming into contact with water at 55 °C, it only takes ten seconds for people to suffer third-degree burns. Depending on how the hot surface is handled (touched or operated), temperatures of less than 50 °C may already require protective measures.
Source: PROCESS trade journal (2/2023)