potential of energy recycling and CHP in the US steel industry


The Cokenergy plant along Lake Michigan recycles the energy for Mittal Steel, one of the small number of steelmaking plants in the US taking advantage of cogeneration

One company operates 14 cogeneration plants, both traditional and using ‘recycled energy’, on behalf of its industrial company partners in the US. Yet there is scope for much more ‘third-party’ cogeneration, particularly in the steel industry, writes Brennan Downes.

The use of cogeneration is documented in practically every industry. Institutions and commercial facilities use it for heating and all or part of their electrical load; hospitals use it for uninterruptible power systems; and lately supermarkets are using it to back up their power supply grid and save on cooling costs. Industrials have always used it, sometimes out of necessity due to lack of supply, and other times on a purely economic basis. Traditional topping-cycle combined heat and power (CHP) is the type of cogeneration that is especially well known in these industries. But for the steel industry, it also employs one type of cogeneration that is less well documented – recycled energy.

Recycled energy, typically a form of bottomcycle CHP, is a unique – although not novel – way to recover energy that has been ‘bought and paid for’. This recycled energy still has residual value after it has been used for its initial purpose in an industrial process. Recycled energy can intricately couple with energy-recovery generation equipment in an industrial process. Executing these projects requires a concerted effort of manpower, time and capital. To ensure that the project operates in harmony with the production process and provides the maximum financial advantage to the company, teams such as production operators, engineering, environmental, financial, procurement and accounting must work in unison. Companies of any size can have a very hard time championing these projects internally. A partner and advocate in this endeavour is the energy service company, which can help develop projects and bring them from the drawing table to execution.

the EU Buildings Directive revisited

In December 2002, European governments agreed to increase the energy performance of buildings, but with the implementation deadline for the Buildings Directive drawing closer, problems are inevitably emerging. Frank Knecht argues for speedy transposition and extension of this legislation, which holds the potential for being a strong promotional tool of small-scale on-site power production across Europe.

‘Which country outside the European Union has got a Buildings Directive?’ EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs recently asked with some pride. The Directive, which aims at increasing expertise and public knowledge of the energy performance and energy savings possibilities of buildings, indeed is a typical product of Brussels-made legislation. Piebalgs, a Latvian, knows all too well about the poor energy performance of most buildings in Europe, and in the 10 new Member States in particular.

Plans to speedily transpose the Buildings Directive and extend its scope in the coming years are facing opposition

It is estimated that the potential for cost-efficient energy savings amounts to one fifth of current consumption in buildings, and even more in central and eastern Europe. However, despite this clear opportunity to reduce Europe’s energy bill, the Commissioner faces some opposition to his plans to speedily transpose the Directive and to extend its scope in the coming years. ‘The buildings sector accounts for 40% of our energy consumption. Thus the biggest savings potential is there. I very much expect that national governments will continue to work in this direction and encourage citizens to use energyefficient technologies, not only for themselves but also for the future generations.’ Whether he will prevail on this issue is but one of the still unsolved questions in the European arena.

AN UNDERESTIMATED PIECE OF LEGISLATION

Back in December 2002, the European Parliament and the Council jointly adopted the Buildings Directive only 19 months after the European Commission presented its first proposal.


A French building certificate for the Brussels Berlaymont building. The certification system under the Buildings Directive will issue certificates to buildings indicating their energy consumption (Tribu Energie)