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ENGIE paves the way for decarbonization in the GCC with Holcim project

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ENGIE paves the way for decarbonization in the GCC with Holcim project

By: Alexander Alzamora, Head of Technical – On-site Utilities, ENGIE Solutions GCC

Alexander underscores ENGIE’s commitment to assisting industrial clients in achieving their decarbonization targets

As part of its sustainability and revenue optimisation strategy, Holcim UAE’s LEC cement plant in Fujairah, signed a 10-year Build, own, operate, transfer (BOOT) agreement with ENGIE Solutions to develop a waste heat recovery (WHR) system.

The proposed solution for waste heat recovery is based on the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) technology, which uses an organic, high molecular mass fluid. The fluid allows Rankine cycle heat recovery from lower temperature sources like the industrial waste heat from cement production.

ENGIE Solutions’ waste heat recovery system – based on ORC technology, will capture low-temperature waste heat and will be operated without water.

What are the main benefits of the heat recovery system for Holcim and the environment?

Globally, the industrial sector accounted for 37% of global energy use in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency. Estimates are that currently available technologies and best energy management practices can contribute to reducing industrial energy consumption by 10% to 40%, the IEA adds.

Waste heat recovery increases the energy efficiency of a cement plant by converting the waste heat into useful electricity, reducing the energy cost purchased from the grid. It also reduces the CO2 emissions of the cement plant by avoiding the combustion of fossil fuels for power generation, contributing to climate change mitigation. Finally, it improves the ambient air quality by lowering the temperature of the exhaust gases, reducing both industrial pollution and water consumption for cooling.

The project is part of Holcim Group’s sustainability mission. The company signed the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” to pursue a net zero future. To meet its targets, Holcim will need to avoid 10 million tonnes of CO2 released every year from buildings and infrastructure.

How much electricity and CO2 emissions can be saved by using the ORC technology in a cement factory?

The Organic Rankine Cycle system, based on a closed-loop thermodynamic cycle, will help the client avoid 29.2 kilotons per year of CO2 – representing a reduction of 28.35% in power-related emissions. Further, transferring the low-grade waste heat will generate 10Mwe of electricity.

How does the ORC technology differ from the conventional steam rankine cycle (SRC) technology in terms of efficiency, cost, and feasibility?

Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) technology is considered non-intrusive, as it interfaces with the process in only two points: the Pre-Heater exhaust duct and the Clinker Cooler exhaust duct. On the other hand, SRC constitutes a highly intrusive intervention to the core process (mid clinker cooler tap) as the exhaust temperatures are insufficient to run the steam cycle.

Apart from being non-intrusive, the other criteria for choosing ORC over SRC is the associated water consumption. Water is a precious resource in arid areas such as the UAE, and therefore, the SRC would incur significant operational and environmental costs due to the water demand of the cycle (ORC uses an organic, high-molecular-mass fluid instead of water).

How does Waste Heat recovery align with ENGIE’s decarbonisation targets for its clients?

This Holcim project is aligned with ENGIE Solutions’ GCC strategy to deliver asset-based solutions for our core strategic industrial customers and to assist them in achieving CO2 reduction targets. It enables ENGIE to provide clients with low-carbon energy solutions that reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint while improving their energy efficiency and reliability.

This project is a regional flagship for ENGIE in support of decarbonising the cement industry, which is considered a “hard to abate sector” in decarbonisation terms. While ORC technology is proven and widely used in other sectors, ENGIE is implementing this technology for the first time in the region’s cement production sector. This aligns with ENGIE Group’s priorities by helping our clients achieve a 45 Mt reduction in their CO2 emissions per year by 2030.

What are the key features of the “utilities-as-a-service” model that ENGIE offers to Holcim and other industrial clients?

  • ENGIE invests in the utilities systems of its clients, such as power generation, heating, cooling, lighting, and water treatment. Payments are service-based over the life of the contract, with no CAPEX or debt, with results and performance commitment.
  • ENGIE optimises, operates, and maintains the utilities systems with guaranteed performances, ensuring high efficiency, reliability, and safety.
  • ENGIE supplies utilities to its clients at a competitive tariff, resulting in guaranteed savings and improving their cash flow.
  • ENGIE enables clients to achieve their decarbonisation goals by implementing low-carbon and renewable energy solutions, such as waste heat recovery, biomass, solar, and wind.

How does ENGIE ensure the quality and reliability of the ORC technology and its operation and maintenance?

ENGIE has global expertise in waste heat recovery technology. We apply our own engineering and project management capabilities to integrate the ORC systems with the existing utilities systems of clients, ensuring optimal performance and compatibility. We also provide 24/7 remote monitoring and control of the ORC systems, regular on-site inspections, and preventive maintenance to ensure high availability and reliability.

In the case of Holcim UAE’s LEC cement plant, The ENGIE Solutions GCC team has developed local capabilities to handle the full project management, design, operation, and maintenance (O&M) of the project.

What are the challenges and opportunities of implementing ORC technology in the GCC region’s cement industry and other industrial sectors?

We see increased opportunities in the increasing demand for energy efficiency and carbon reduction in the industrial sector in our region. Further, developing new and improved ORC systems with higher performance and lower costs allows us to deliver even better value to our clients.

That said,the technical complexity of ORC systems is a significant hurdle and the economic viability of ORC projects is still not well-known in the region.

ENGIE Solutions, through this 10-year BOOT agreement, is changing the mindset of industrial companies in the region by practically proving that financed energy-as-a-service solutions can accelerate decarbonisation strategies and allow the region’s industrial and manufacturing sector to focus on core business while helping achieve greater efficiency and sustainability goals.

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