With the US wasting almost 20% of its energy from power production, the need for sustainable alternatives has never been more pressing. Dresser-Rand’s director of business development, Steve Zilonis, speaks to World Pharmaceutical Frontiers about the economic and environmental benefits of combined heat and power.

What is combined heat and power (chP) and how does it help reduce energy costs for manufacturers?

Steve Zilonis: CHP describes the generation of two forms of usable energy from one source of fuel. The best way to understand how it reduces energy costs and contributes positively to the environment is to fully understand the common alternative. Manufacturing facilities are typically energy intensive. Like most facilities, they get their energy in two or three forms, namely electric power (from the utility grid), and usually either oil or natural gas to produce heating and sometimes cooling. Cooling is typically created with electric chillers so most manufacturing is "electric" energy intensive, unless they require a lot of heat in the process, in which case they could be oil, gas or some other form of heating fuel intensive.

It becomes clearer once you understand that the electric utility or electric company delivers electricity from a power plant that is, on average, 35% efficient. That means for every three barrels of oil that goes into feeding a power plant, one third becomes power and two thirds is wasted in heat. When you get your electricity bill, you don’t just pay for the 35% that was made into electricity, you pay for the inefficiency too.

By using a CHP plant in your facility, you can make use of the other 65% for heating and/or cooling (absorption cooling from heat). You can turn wasted heat into valuable heat, stopping you from having to buy oil or natural gas for heating, and saving lots of energy and money.

Can you tell us how CHP solutions can bring energy efficiency to a pharmaceutical facility?

Pharmaceutical facilities tend to be fully occupied in energyintensive research and development and manufacturing activities. Most will be using energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. CHP can complement these types of activities and run around the clock.

A typical small-scale pharmaceutical company might use a small CHP in the range of say 250kWe, which can make around 1.3MMbtu/h of heating and can generate 76t of chilled water through an absorption chiller. With normal electric and heating costs this can save over $250,000 a year. By offsetting other fuel usage, it’s also much cleaner than coal or oil-fired power plants. The same 250kWe CHP unit can save a facility over 30% of its CO2 emissions or 900 tons of greenhouse gases a year. Compared with any other sustainable or renewable common energy technology, CHP has the largest environmental and economic impact.

How do CHP solutions promote sustainable manufacturing?

Right now in the US, it is estimated that almost 20% of energy from power production is wasted. This is the equivalent of all the oil we import from Saudi Arabia every year. The cost of this waste is the equivalent of the entire economy of Japan. If manufacturing used CHP as a portion of their energy needs, this would be a very sustainable solution for the world. The Department of Energy has stated that it is a very sustainable form of energy and the EPA-CHP partnership endorses its use in many applications.

If someone wants to potentially switch to a more sustainable energy solution, such as CHP solutions, how do they go about making that happen?

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers could start with visiting our website or other websites that explain CHP. The very best process and steps to take are outlined by the EPA, and its website has great tools, studies and explanations of CHP to see if its right for you. I would also highly recommend the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy website and any regional CHP application centres you can find online.