Innovative EPI research for the ceramics industry
Saving energy and reducing emissions have been important priorities of the ceramics industry for decades. A natural incentive creates cost awareness; energy costs are an important part of total production costs. The ceramics industry has a constant will to improve and innovate. Agreements have been made with central government on this. But how can energy savings be achieved in times when the ceramics industry is in dire straits, when companies have to cut back and some production companies have even been closed completely?
GasTerra's Environmental Plan for Industry (EPI) provided a solution for a group of ceramics companies that purchase gas from GasTerra. GasTerra facilitated research into energy savings and innovative production technology for this so-called 'Gigasel group’. Last autumn, in a multi-partner project of GasTerra, TCKI Dutch research institute, burner supplier Instalat and DNV GL (formerly DNV Kema and Gasunie Research), energy-intensive aspects of the heating process were investigated at the laboratory of DNV GL in Groningen. The results are intended exclusively for the Gigasel group.
Many ceramic products are fired in a continuous furnace, for example bricks that are fired in a throughput time of 96 hours at a final peak temperature of 1100 °C. DNV GL's high-temperature furnace was converted for the purpose of simulating this process of firing the bricks. After that, the way that traditionally applied burner lances transfer their heat was investigated. The tests showed that in the high-temperature part of the furnace, with a commonly used burner lance diameter, considerable savings are possible by means of improved process control. The film images yielded by a special infrared camera were an eye opener, even for experienced professionals.
A new burner concept was also tested: the so-called high-speed burner. With this type of burner, combustion gases enter the oven space at a very high speed: 100 - 200 m/s. This technology is already available, but is still seldom used for the high-temperature part of the furnace. The infrared footage showed a spectacular pulse-like combustion. Here too, the test results show that a significant reduction in the high heat is possible.
The results were presented to the Gigasel group on 12 December 2013. The companies took note of the results with interest. Using the results, they are now able to give effective direction to practical tests, in part, thanks to GasTerra's EPI research.