A low-cost, high-temperature ceramic heat exchanger for industrial process heating applications, developed with funding from the DOE’s Industrial Technologies Program, could deliver annual fuel savings of up to 102 trillion BTU.

By combining a helical heat exchanger, shared-wall radiant U-tube and helical flame stabilization element, a new process heater is said to offer 70 to 80 percent greater efficiency over current state-of-the-art radiant tube combustion systems. Developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program, the technology, known as the advanced process heater (APH), represents a potential annual fuel savings of 102 trillion BTU when compared to a state-of-the-art radiant tube combustion system, according to the research.

The technology is suitable for the chemical, strip and wire annealing, heat treating and aluminum industries. Two commercial APH hybrid prototypes were designed, installed and demonstrated on a batch-wire annealing furnace with success. This resulted in three spin-off products: a high-temperature heat exchanger; a new radiant heat transfer system; and a hybrid or integral APH, which will be commercialized by Erie, Pa.-based Spinworks LLC.

The low-cost, high-temperature heat exchanger, Heatcor-451 will produce preheated air temperatures from 451 to 900°F (232 to 464°C). Its target application is in strip-steel annealing furnaces. A typical annealing furnace contains 100 radiant tubes with a rating of 50 million BTU/hr and an annual fuel cost of $1.9 million. The new unit is designed to work in conjunction with existing systems. The Heatcor-451, when combined with the SpyroCor radiant heat transfer system, is expected to save approximately 40 percent of current-level BTUs of energy consumed per year. Demonstrations of this product will occur early this year.

The SpyroCor radiant heat transfer system (RHTS) is a patent-pending system designed to be used as a stand-alone system or in combination with the Heatcor-451. The RHTS uses a ceramic compression system that allows the elements to be mounted in vertical radiant tubes. Typical applications include strip-annealing, wire-annealing, aluminum annealing and general heat treating. Commercialized in 2006, the RHTS has saved more than 15 trillion BTUs of energy so far, according to the company.

The Heatcor Ready to Fire (RTF) is a hybrid ceramic heat exchanger and burner that can be directly mounted on a metallic radiant tube. When used in conjunction with the RHTS, fuel savings approaching 50 percent can be achieved, according to the company. The RTF was demonstrated in 2007 on a wire annealing furnace. Commercialization activities will begin in 2008 and 2009. Energy savings of 120 million BTU per installation, per year, are anticipated.