Cogeneration drives sustainable production

Deliberate sustainability and emerging technologies are driving a dynamic new era as the non-wovens sector meets growing consumer and industrial demand.

(Originally published in Non-Wovens Industry)

Deliberate sustainability and emerging technologies are driving a dynamic new era as the non-wovens sector meets growing consumer and industrial demand. At North America’s first integrated PDH/PP facility – Heartland Polymers – the selection of production and power technologies is focused on increased efficiency and reduced emissions.

The on-site central utility block (CUB) cogeneration unit plays a key role in delivering increased sustainability. As a result, the Heartland Polymers facility in Alberta, Canada, will produce polypropylene that is projected to have a GHG emissions footprint 65 per cent lower than the global average and 35 per cent lower compared to average North American PP facilities, according to an independent third-party review commissioned by Heartland Polymers’ parent company Inter Pipeline.

Sustainability and emissions: Heartland Polymers operations and production

The on-site central utility block (CUB) cogeneration unit recovers residual heat from the operation of its gas turbines (GTGs) and utilizes it to produce steam for use by the propane dehydrogenation (PDH) and polypropylene (PP) units to support process equipment energy requirements. The residual heat recovery process is used instead of traditional power and emissions-intense fossil fuels, such as coal.

Energy efficient technology

Our production facility is designed for efficient and sustainable operation that reduces energy and water consumption, emissions, and resource waste. A significant element of this story is the cogeneration unit.

The integration of the cogeneration plant within the broader petrochemical complex plays a significant role in reducing the Heartland’s overall GHG emissions by equivalent of 35 per cent less the average North American Plant (based on the 2019 independent third party study). As well, because natural gas is the feedstock for the CUB, it produces cleaner, lower emitting electricity to support HPC operation than many plants in operation.

The integration of the central utilities block with the process units allows for by-products produced by PDH to be utilized within CUB, which offsets natural gas consumption. These by-products (ethane and hydrogen) are consumed in the utility block to produce power and steam and make up approximately 32.7 per cent of the total fuel usage by the utility block.

While the PDH technology is relatively on par with average emissions estimates from other PDH operations, the hydrogen used to fuel the integrated cogeneration unit and process heaters is a by-product of the dehydrogenation process to create the propylene. This further reduces GHG emissions and removes the need for imported grid electricity to fuel the process (grid-based power can be higher emitting than power generated from the integrated cogeneration unit).

Using the hydrogen produced in the PDH operations as fuel in the rest of the complex will reduce our carbon footprint by as much as 130,000 tonnes annually.

Technology selection and engineering design also lead to a step change in sustainable water use compared to most other production facilities. This includes employing air cooling (A-Frame Condensers and glycol systems) instead of water cooling, significantly reducing the overall uptake of fresh water per year.

The non-wovens sector is positioned for exciting growth as technology enables increased flexibility, performance and ultimately, the promise of greater sustainability.

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