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Clean start for industrial propane heat pump

GERMANY: Research on a heat pump with a propane refrigeration circuit in an industrial cleaning machine has proven the suitability of propane to industrial processes with heating and cooling requirements.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE partnered with the Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research (ZAE Bayern) and the German industrial cleaning machine manufacturer MAFAC E Schwarz GmbH to develop a modular thermal management module for the industrial component cleaning machine.

Fraunhofer ISE was responsible for integrating an innovative propane refrigeration circuit into this module. The thermal management module operates in standby and is coupled with an existing cleaning machine via the process and control technology to supply the machine with useful heat and cold provided by the heat pump.

Previously, the heat and cold supply of the cleaning system was purely electrical. In the course of the new application, the two separate processes could be transferred into one process. 

Significantly, the project team succeeded in optimally designing the heat pump using just 255g of propane.

A refrigerant-reduced cooling circuit using 150g of propane had previously been developed by Fraunhofer ISE as part of the LC150 project.

Retrofitting the existing cleaning machine is said to have resulted in a significantly higher energy efficiency. The heat pump achieved a combined heating and cooling COP of 5.6. The power requirements for heating the process water (cleaning, rinsing) and for heating the flow air for drying were cut by half, while the power used for heating the fresh water was said to have Benn reduced by as much as 80%. 

By recirculating the exhaust air, over 10,000 litres of fresh water could be saved annually, thanks to a new type of condensation unit that efficiently re-cools the process exhaust air, allowing the available cooling from the heat pump to be used in the cleaning machine in line with the process. 

In a two-shift operation with five production days per week and 48 production weeks per year, the new thermal management module is is expected to achieve cost savings of around €4,800 per year and CO2 emission savings of around 12,600kg per year.

The application is also seen as promising in other processes that operate in a similar temperature range (50-70°C), such as large dishwashers in canteens.

The project was part of the ETA in Existing Facilities project started in November 2020 with a planned duration of three years. Funding was provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK) as part of the German government’s seventh energy research programme. 

Related stories:

Engineers develop optimised propane heat pump – 21 June 2023
GERMANY: Engineers in Germany have developed a functional brine heat pump using a fully hermetic compressor with a heating capacity of 11.4kW using only 146g of propane. Read more…

Propane heat pump hits new efficiency record – 11 October 2022
GERMANY: Engineers in Germany developing a propane-based refrigeration circuit for heat pumps are said to have achieved a heating capacity of 12.8kW with only 124g of propane. Read more…

Low charge propane heat pump developer seeks partners – 22 October 2019
GERMANY: A German research institute claims to have developed a prototype hydrocarbon domestic heat pump with a heat output of 8kW from just 150g of propane. Read more…

Fraunhofer develops propane heat pump – 3 September 2018
GERMANY: Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute claim to have developed a viable propane heat pump using low volume heat exchangers and a special compressor. Read more…

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