Nova and Fuel Cell cogeneration for the ceramic industry

articolo tratto da CER n. maggio/giugno 2023
con interventi di Davide Ghidoni – Proposal Engineer Cefla

Increasingly, throughout industry – and especially in the ceramic sector – energy efficiency and control over energy costs are crucial competitiveness factors.

This explains why the sector has sought technological innovation for decades, developing plants with technologies that have low environmental impact and deliver excellent performance on the consumption containment front. Further solutions include cogeneration and photovoltaic panels.

Cefla is dedicated to the development of innovative products and technologies for businesses operating in several manufacturing fields, ceramics included. One of its main focus points is cogeneration, that is, using natural gas for the combined generation of electricity and heat. More specifically, Cefla is now exploring the opportunities offered by fuel cells.

Fuel cells for Cefla

There are many types but the most efficient are the so-called SOFCs (Solid Oxide Fuel Cells). These allow for the clean generation of electrical and heat energy as they do not, unlike natural gas, involve combustion. That’s not all. Fuel Cells have a generation efficiency (i.e. the conversion efficiency of the chemical energy of the gas into electrical energy) approximately 25% higher than that of other electricity generation and cogeneration systems on the market.“.

Davide Ghidoni, Cefla Proposal engineer

Compared to traditional technologies, then, Fuel Cells are more efficient and less polluting. They also have an extremely long lifespan, more than twenty years. Unlike traditional cogeneration systems they do not require maintenance and do not use fluids such as oil, urea or other fossil-derived chemical substances. Moreover, Fuel Cells also seem to dovetail with other aspects of environmental sustainability. They are, in fact, hydrogen-ready, that is, already fully equipped to run on hydrogen. They have low noise levels and produce near-zero waste; this is because the waste material produced by the erosion the fuel cells undergo during operation is 98% recyclable inside new units.

Of course, not just Fuel Cells but all cogeneration-based technologies are eco-sustainable.

First of all, this is because generating both electrical and thermal energy (in the form of hot water or high-temperature fumes) from the same energy source, natural gas, allows savings compared to traditional systems that need, to produce the same energy, more gas input to begin with.

Moreover, the energy production process takes place directly on-site where the energy is used in the manufacturing processes, placing it close to the user and thus making the system more efficient, with evident resource savings. The advantage thus consists of making the electrical and thermal generation process more efficient.

What advantages do Fuel Cells bring to the ceramic industry?

In this sector Fuel Cells have an important role to play as, since they use hot air as a thermal vector, they can use 100% of the heat produced in a ceramic factory: and ceramic plants, of course, prevalently use hot air. The cost-benefit advantage lies in the near-certainty of being able to use all the thermal output within the manufacturing process, thus avoiding the dissipation that occurs with motors, which produce hot water. In short, the necessity of sustainability is, indeed, the mother of invention, producing surprising, constantly evolving solutions.