New technology promises industry carbon breakthrough

A team of researchers from the University of South Australia have developed a world first technology that will potentially greatly reduce industry’s dependence on natural gas.

UniSA’s Rhys Jacob and his team have developed a new system that can deliver industrial heat at temperatures varying between 150 and 700 °C using renewable energy from solar or wind combined with a novel approach to energy storage.

“Rather than trying to store renewable electricity in a battery, our system uses electricity to generate heat and then stores that heat in a bed of rocks and phase change materials, so it can be available on demand for high temperature applications,” Jacob says.

“We can currently deliver temperatures up to around 700°C, which is adequate for many processes in industries like paper milling, agriculture, mineral operations and food production.”

According to the latest data, around 20 per cent of global fossil fuel emissions are currently produced by industry, most of which comes through the burning of natural gas to create heat for industrial processes.

In addition to the environmental benefits of emissions-free operation, the system is also economically competitive, offering potential savings against increasingly unstable gas prices and more cost-effective storage than battery technology.

“Gas prices have gone through the roof lately, which is a key incentive for industry to find alternatives, and storing heat is also a magnitude or two cheaper than storing energy in batteries,” says Jacob.

“One key advantage of this system is current staff in most operations could maintain it without any training, which ensures it is extremely easy to integrate into an existing business,” Jacob says.

This easy integration also ensures the system can operate in conjunction with existing gas-fired heating units, providing manufacturers greater flexibility and reliability in the production cycle.

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