Industrial plants require heat energy to process and manufacture finish products. This heat energy represents a significant cost factor, especially for energy-intensive sectors such as the petro-chemical, chemical, metal-producing and metal-processing industries.
From the study by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, German industry spent a total of 1,700 petajoules (or 473 billion kilowatt-hours) of energy in 2013 solely to provide process heat – almost two-thirds of its entire energy consumption.
Industrial plants are still wasting this energy often, because valves,fittings, flanges and other plant components with complex surface molding structures remain uninsulated. For these kinds of components, companies like MK Plantec Co.,Ltd have now developed highly adaptable tailor made insulation systems.
Individual plant facilities at many large companies, for example, is insulated with mats made of mineral wool and clad with aluminum-coated zinc sheets which is a proven economical method of energy saving.
However, the parts of the piping systems that are difficult to insulate due to their complex surface structures are usually left out. This includes branches, flanges, instrument devices and transitions between different pipe diameters, for example, as well as built-in parts such as gate, rotary slide and other valves.
Nevertheless, many companies continue to underestimate the heat lost by these plant components. A report from German Energy Agency (dena) says, a single uninsulated fitting with a connecting dimension of 100 millimeters, through which steam flows at 100 degrees Celsius, loses as much heat as an insulated twenty-meter pipe of the same diameter. A single uninsulated valve can account for annual heat losses worth up to several hundred Euros. Just imagine how many such energy-related weak points might be found in an entire factory.
Energy consultancy firm Ecofys extrapolated these heat losses to obtain a value that is representative of German industry as a whole. Ecofys estimates that domestic production sites could save 106 petajoules (or 22 billion kilowatt-hours) of heating energy every year if their operators were to thermally insulate all uninsulated plant components and repair damaged insulation. While these measures would cost around €180 million, they could save the companies €750 million in energy costs every year.
The main reason fittings and similar built-in parts are often still uninsulated despite such considerable savings potential is because “It must be possible to operate these plant components after they’ve been insulated and they must remain accessible for inspection,maintenance and repair work. In addition, they usually have such complex designs that thermal insulation with conventional materials is only possible with great effort, if at all.” When I asked Shin Hyun Bae the chairman of Mk Plantec Co.,Ltd he said their tailor made insulation product covers have made inspection,repair and maintenance easier for plant workers.The tailor made insulation is a high performance solution designed to meet the most demanding requirements for protection of critical flow and process equipment from hydro carbon pool fire conditions which can be fitted to valves, actuators,instrument panels, process vessels, cable trays, tube & pipework added by Shin Hyun Bae. They are clearfully designed by software and engineered to fix closely around the protected equipment to avoid Corrosion Under Insulation CUI by providing removable,compact and user eco- friendly enclosure.
These items are tailor made to comply with drawings and/or customer requirements, designed to give close fit by specialists with years of experience. Designs for plant components with difficult geometric shapes, such as flanges, rotary slide valves, branches or gate valves, the system opens up new possibilities for thermal insulation.
They are typically constructed with an insulating filler, such as glass, silica, mineral wool or closed cell foam; protected by coated fabric or stainless steel mesh and foils, the choice of the outer cover material depending upon the application, i.e. UV, radiant heat, chemical attack, molten metal splash or just oil and water resistance.
Some of the fabrics are available in different colours for colour coding of hot water, chill water, steam, etc.
Seams are sewn with high temperature threads, usually with Kevlar TM, PTFE coated glass fibre or stainless steel thread to suit application.
Removable flexible sleeve jackets are secured with hooks and back plates (brass, nickel or stainless steel), or velcro hook and loop strip. They are designed for easy removal by one person, and can be re-used.
Beside thermal insulation, other functions of insulation covers and jackets can be used as:
Fire Protection: reduce the risk of fire damage by use of fire resistant materials.
Cryogenic Insulation: Applied in gas plants example LNG Plant
Corrosion Control: It helps to prevent corrosion by protecting the substrate against chemical attack or any form of water ingress which might lead to corrosion.
Noise insulation: reduction in noise levels when used as pump covers, exhausts, etc.
Vibration absorption: flexibility of materials reduces damage to covers caused by vibration.
Ikenna Athan Oparaji is an engineer, poet and a creative picturesque writer. He is the Technical Sales Director at MK Plantec Co., Ltd & MK Eng Co., Ltd; office headquarter in Korea. You can contact him at: email@example.com, twitter: @AthanOparaji, Instagram @athanoparaji