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Delivering energy-efficiency with sustainable steam

Martin Kent, 27/09/2019

In today’s increasingly environmentally-conscious world, we’re all looking to become more sustainable; whether that’s by switching to a reusable coffee cup or paper straws. But, scale up these eco-conscious efforts to a district heating scheme and you could be faced with some pretty unique challenges.

One town in Scotland was faced with this very dilemma when they looked at introducing a sustainable, energy-efficient means of fueling two hundred homes. The town introduced a 3.5MW biomass boiler, feed tank, turbine and load-leveling vessel in the existing energy centre – all of which would provide heat and energy for the plant.

You might think the job was complete at this stage; after all, biomass is now providing a renewable energy source at a relatively low-cost for the town. But, the energy company responsible for the town’s utilities saw an opportunity to introduce a local distillery into the district heating scheme.

For this, they needed some help. Spirax Sarco was brought in to assist with the design and specification of energy-saving steam technology for the newly-developed plant. Our role was to help by making sure that the new system used as much available energy as possible. Why? To ensure the biomass system would be able to meet everyone’s needs – the residents, the distillery’s and the needs of local business.

Spirax Sarco created a full design specification with drawings and accompanying stress analysis report that recommended the use of a 20-bar g steam system that incorporated a second load-levelling vessel with level, steam and condensate control systems, steam surplus pressure reduction systems, double-block and bleed isolation valves, steam ancillaries and a pressure reduction station for the steam turbine.

In order to cut waste and utilise all of the available energy, the Distillery is supplied with steam for process and the district heating system is supplied with hot water from steam to water and water to water heat exchange packaged systems.

The benefits to the distillery come in the form of a low-carbon, energy-efficient way of heating the fermented wash, because both the sensible and latent heat dissipate into the liquid. Pretty amazing right? The benefits to the distillery don’t stop there, the condensate return system recycles the collected condensate from the process to provide hot water, making it even more of a sustainable choice!

Investing in sustainability doesn’t just have to mean ditching the plastic shopping bag and buying an electric car. This Scottish town is now benefiting from sustainably-sourced heat and power via its heating network, meaning all 200 homes are positively contributing to the UK’s carbon reduction efforts.

You don’t need to distill whisky or live in the Highlands to benefit from sustainable steam. The rise of district heating schemes that deliver cost-effective, low-carbon heat across the UK are testament to the role steam can play in the future decarbonisation of the energy grid.

Martin Kent

Project Sales Support Manager

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