Large industrial sites – that is where the scope for new CHP capacity to be built really lies; in refineries, chemical and food processing plants, paper mills and many other large, energy-hungry sites around the world. That’s where large heat and power loads exist around the clock, and thus where the very largest CHP plants can be built, to deliver enormous savings in primary energy use, costs and carbon emissions. Sadly, the industrial sector in much of the developed world has been quiet for quite a few years, and the part of the CHP industry which builds industrial-scale plant has been similarly quiet.

In this issue, Tom Casten takes a good look at the obstacles to building more industrial-scale CHP in North America – and, in his usual direct way, proposes a way around them, on page 19. But a look at the news pages of this issue from page 10, suggests at least some of the industrial-scale action is currently taking place in Asia. A Chinese steel producer is to burn waste gases produced on-site to make heat and power; a 200 MW gas-fuelled CHP plant is proposed for a petrochemical works in Thailand; further west, Siemens is installing a 47 MW CHP plant at a refinery in Russia.

But CHP operates at other scales too – medium-sized plants serve buildings that have substantial energy loads; classically hotels, hospitals, leisure centres etc, and smaller industrial sites such as wastewater treatment plants. Investment costs are significantly lower and this sector has remained more buoyant in recent years. And great things are expected of even smaller, micro-CHP schemes that serve buildings as small as individual households. What these systems lack in size (the smallest generate just 1 kW of electricity) they will make up in the number to be deployed – perhaps in the tens of millions, eventually.

The other main sector is district energy, which has been a huge success in parts of Europe, North America and, more recently, the Middle East. In this issue we include an article, on page 31 which describes the enormous potential that has existed in Russia for a decade or more – to upgrade the very extensive, but largely decrepit, district heating networks there.

Other articles look at the more successful use of district energy in North America, the development of micro-CHP systems based on fuel cell technology – and the growing use of on-site renewable energy systems.

Steve Hodgson

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