Industrial energy use remains a headline-worthy topic amid the rapidly growing host of environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities. While this won’t come as news to companies that manage heat transfer processes, it presents an opportunity to highlight how heat exchanger optimization can fulfill multiple ESG goals.
However, given limited resources, corporations can only tackle so many initiatives, and leadership teams will restrict funding to projects that align best with their strategic priorities.
Heat transfer assets often provide compelling opportunities for investment that check many strategic boxes. They deliver high returns on invested capital, low execution risk and quantifiable data to support both economic and ESG-focused goals.
Improved Thermal Management Strengthens the Position of ESG Leaders
The ESG umbrella covers a broad range of business behaviors that support a company’s long-term sustainability and has quickly evolved to become an essential screening factor for investors. Attesting to this is a 2019 McKinsey & Company report that references how “ESG-oriented investing has experienced a meteoric rise” with global sustainable investment growing to top $30 trillion in 2019.
Spending on ESG-focused initiatives is driven by myriad factors, such as government attention, investor scrutiny and corporate leadership recognizing the critical role of ESG standards for long-term business success.
It is possible to quantify efforts to address the “E” in ESG by monitoring energy use and waste to evaluate the environmental footprint of a company’s operations. Heat exchangers, which significantly impact the day-to-day energy consumption of many large operations, have tremendous potential for measurable ESG improvements. Unfortunately, executives often overlook these mundane machines.
A holistic approach to ESG involves focusing on the proven gains from heat exchanger efficiency in addition to taking on new ventures, such as the latest “green” technologies. Even small increases in heat exchanger performance often translate to measurable reductions in fuel consumption—a clear win for confronting energy use and emissions targets at relatively low cost and with minimal risk.
Efficiency Yields Potential for Waste Heat Recovery
The US Department of Energy estimates that between 20 to 50% of industrial energy input is lost as waste heat. This energy disappears as exhaust, into cooling systems and through hot equipment surfaces. Many opportunities exist for the industrial sector to reclaim at least a portion of this waste heat to generate electricity, exploiting thermal integration across their operations.
“Every bit of waste heat recycled into energy saves some fuel,” according to the Yale School of Environment, which emphasizes that, “The problem is not so much that waste heat directly warms the atmosphere—the heat we throw into the air accounts for just 1% of climate change. Instead, the problem is one of wastage. If the energy is there, we should use it.”
While this sounds ideal, there are some real-world challenges to waste heat recovery, as a study of heat integration discovered.
“It is common that several HEN [Heat Exchanger Network] designs can be identified that achieve approximately the same energy-saving at similar costs. However, the designs can vary significantly regarding network complexity (stream splitting, number of units, characteristics of spaghetti design), where new heat exchangers are placed, the placement of utility heaters and coolers for target temperature control, etc.,” say energy researchers, Martin, Svensson and Harvey.
Their paper on heat integration indicates why it’s crucial to leverage the design skills of a knowledgeable heat exchanger manufacturer. With 60+ years of experience engineering heat exchangers, Exchanger Industries is your cutting-edge partner when it comes to new technology and custom heat transfer solutions.
Heat Exchanger Efficiency Supports More than Environmental Goals
While energy conservation directly addresses Environmental goals, focusing on heat exchanger efficiency initiatives can also satisfy Social and Governance criteria through indirect means.
Government and Regulatory Support
Many governments recognize that improved energy management represents ‘low-hanging fruit’ and are using regulatory frameworks and energy pricing to cut emissions, improve operating performance and increase sustainability.
As the conservation agenda continues, fast actors—those who are quick to embrace the low-risk nature of process efficiency gains—are better able to access government credits, benefit from environmental tax incentives and avoid future regulatory penalties.
A recent employment survey reveals, “Most millennials would take a pay cut to work at an environmentally responsible company, and nearly 70% of respondents said that if a company had a strong sustainability plan, it would affect their decision to stay with that company long term.”
The incoming generation wants to work for (and do business with) responsible corporations. For this reason, companies that lead with ESG are likely to gain a competitive edge in capturing workforce talent.
At Exchanger Industries, we incorporate ESG values into the design and fabrication of efficient, cost-effective heat transfer equipment. We’re committed to providing our clients with proven innovation—like our breakthrough fluoropolymer antifouling technology—which raises the bar for asset performance and brings ESG and operational goals together.
A Profitable Focus on Long-term Plant Sustainability
More and more stakeholders are paying attention to Environmental, Social and Governance criteria. Heat exchangers offer many attractive, low-cost and low-risk opportunities to address your ESG goals via meaningful energy savings in the long run.
Exchanger Industries is a 60-year leader in delivering custom heat transfer solutions. We’re confident our experience, advanced design capabilities and technologies can reduce energy consumption while providing a positive return on your investment.