9 Jan 2002 – BG Group plc, part of the group formed following privatization of the UK gas industry, and Rinnai Corporation, the Japanese gas appliance specialists, yesterday announced a joint project in which they plan to invest up to $40m to complete development of MicroGen, a new gas appliance to provide heating and electrical power for the home from a single unit.
Building on advanced technology pioneered by BG Group in the UK, the partners expect to market the technology in the UK in 2003 and worldwide thereafter. Rinnai will be BG Group’s sole manufacturing partner and will provide marketing support in key target markets.
The expected capital investment over the next two years will be $4m for moulds and tooling; $14m for facilities; and the remaining expenditure for product design, development and testing. BG Group and Rinnai will share this investment on a 50:50 basis.
Sean Sutcliffe, Executive Vice President, BG Group plc, said, “We believe that there is a large market both in the UK and globally for this type of innovation and we are moving ahead to take our technology to the next stage of commercialisation”.
Mr. Naito, Chairman of the Rinnai Corporation, said, “We are very confident of consumer acceptance of the benefits of this new range of appliance which will appeal to a broad spectrum of users.”
The MicroGen system uses technology that converts the energy in natural and liquid petroleum (LP) gas supplied to the home into whole house heating, hot water and electricity. The system uses energy normally wasted by conventional boilers to drive the novel Stirling generator, which produces electricity directly for use in the home.
This new appliance represents an alternative to fuel cell based micro co-generation systems and has been derived from the evolution of existing mechanical and electronic technologies. This means that the product can be produced inexpensively to provide between 15 kilowatts (kW) and 36kW (50 000 to 120 000 British Thermal Units per hour) of heating capacity plus 1.1kw of electricity.
Product design will allow either floor or wall installation and the unit will be marketed to home and small commercial users, replacing conventional heating, boiler and other hot water systems. At the same time electrical power will be generated to reduce electricity costs.
Environmentally, BG Group has calculated that the average UK home, using this new appliance, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 1.5 tons per year while substantially reducing overall energy costs by up to £200 per year. The system can also maintain the supply of heat and electrical power in the event of power cuts.
BG Group has launched field trials of the MicroGen system in UK homes, building on several years extensive laboratory proving of the technology.