Process Integration Approach

What is Process Integration?

CanmetENERGY promotes the use of process integration to optimize the energy efficiency of complex industrial processes. Process integration is a comprehensive and systematic approach that analyzes the energy use of a plant or process as a whole, rather than solely considering each equipment item or energy system independently. This method can be used to determine a plant’s best energy efficiency strategies and to reduce energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption.

One of the most important features of process integration is the fact that it is based on rigorous and systematic analysis techniques which do not only rely on common sense and experience, but are rather founded on solid thermodynamic principles. These techniques offer engineers a structured approach for identifying energy inefficiencies within a process as well as the potential for overall improvement. Process integration generally consists of 7 steps, from acquiring process data to establishing an action plan to implement the recommended measures.

Why Use Process Integration?

Process integration is known as one of the best approaches for optimizing energy and resource use in industrial facilities. It can be used when either designing a new production unit or when retrofitting or expanding an existing plant. Energy savings ranging from 10 to 30% can typically be obtained through a better energy systems integration. This approach is therefore particularly well-suited for addressing a wide range of industrial challenges, including:

  • Reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Maximizing cogeneration opportunities and heat recovery in process and utility systems
  • Increasing plant profitability by reducing energy-related costs
  • Reducing water consumption and wastewater production
  • Increasing production capacity while minimizing investments
  • Determining an optimal long- and medium-term investment strategy for energy projects

Various Process Integration Techniques

Among the process integration techniques to have emerged, Pinch Analysis is by far the one that is most widely used. Its popularity is due to the simplicity of its underlying concepts, the useful information it provides to engineers and, especially, to the impressive results it has yielded in a multitude of energy integration projects worldwide. Pinch Analysis is primarily used for optimizing heat exchanger networks, but it can also be used for optimizing water and hydrogen networks in the oil refining industry.

Other techniques such as exergy analyses and mathematical programming methods are also used, but much less frequently than Pinch Analysis.

Who Can Benefit from Process Integration?

Process integration can be used in industrial facilities with complex energy systems consuming over 100,000 gigajoules of thermal energy per year, equivalent to an annual natural gas consumption of more than 2,500,000 m3.

A plant’s process complexity is relative to the presence of the following factors:

  • Numerous process heat exchangers
  • High consumption of steam or fuel
  • Energy-intensive process equipment (e.g. furnaces, distillation columns, dryers, evaporators, boilers, reactors, etc.)
  • Building heating and fresh air input units
  • High consumption of hot water and/or thermal oil
  • Compressed air network
  • Extensive use of cooling

Listed below are facilities that can benefit from a process integration approach:

  • Pulp and paper mills
  • Oil refineries
  • Metallurgical sites
  • Chemical and petrochemical plants
  • Food and drink plants

Other industrial processes may also be good candidates for a process integration analysis, but they must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you would like to know whether your plant could benefit from a process integration analysis, please contact us.

To learn more about process integration, see the following documentation: