Process heat - valuable form of energy for industrial processes

Process heat is the heat required in industrial and commercial manufacturing processes to change a workpiece or material property. In German industry, process heat is the most important form of energy: According to the [1]Federal Environment Agency, process heat accounts for around 60 percent of total final energy consumption in industry.

In times of global warming and climate debate, the energy consumption of industrial sectors is also increasingly becoming the focus of discussion. Process heat plays a key role in this context: Due to the high CO2 pollution, the generation and use of process heat offer great potential for cross-sector decarbonization and reduction of electricity consumption in industry.

In our article, we use practical examples to go into important thermal processes in industry, show the importance of process heat for sustainability, and explain how you as a company can benefit from process heat utilization.

What is process heat?

Process heat is heat that is required in industry for technical processes. These processes include, for example, the drying of components, the melting of metals or the provision of steam. At the same time, the term process heat is also used to describe the waste heat of thermal processes in industry. For example, waste heat from power plant processes can be fed into local and district heating networks and used to heat buildings.

The decisive parameter for determining process heat is the temperature level. Thermal processes in industry each require a certain, process-specific temperature level. The higher the temperature level, the greater the energy input required to generate the heat. The energy consumption of companies therefore depends to a large extent on the temperature level of the process heat.

In European industry, these temperature levels are predominant[2] :

  • Hotter than 400 °C: 43 %
  • 100 °C to 400 °C: 27 %
  • Up to 100 °C: 30 %


Which industrial processes require heat?

In industry and commerce, heat is required in a wide variety of forms to change material or workpiece properties. Some typical thermal processes are:

  • Drying processes: Heated air has a significantly higher capacity to absorb water and is therefore ideal for the efficient and rapid drying of materials. The hot air is guided over the material to be dried and removes moisture by convection.
  • Melting and forging processes: In the metallurgical industry, many melting and forging processes require large amounts of thermal energy. These include, for example, blast furnaces for steel production or industrial furnaces for annealing steel.
  • Steam processes: Numerous industrial processes are based on the use of process heat in the form of steam. A typical example is the steam turbine, which uses steam at a high temperature and pressure level to produce electrical energy.


Process heat as an opportunity: energy efficiency and sustainability

Different energy sources are used for the production of process heat. The predominant energy source for process heat generation in industry is still fossil fuels such as natural gas or heating oil. However, the combustion of fossil fuels releases considerable amounts of climate-damaging greenhouse gases such as CO2. Against the backdrop of unabated climate change, alternatives for more sustainable and efficient generation and use of process heat are therefore in demand.

On the generation side, there are various options to sustainably reduce CO2 emissions. Heat pumps, geothermal systems and solar thermal systems are particularly suitable for generating process heat at low to medium temperature levels. At higher temperature levels, alternative fuels such as biomass as well as waste and renewably generated electricity come into question.

Innovative system technology also allows an increase in the efficiency of the generation process: For example, electrically heated or gas-fired thermal oil heating systems can noticeably reduce energy requirements. The use of process heat also offers considerable efficiency potential: If the waste heat from thermal processes is made usable by heat exchangers, it can be reused in other processes. Learn more about industrial waste heat and thermal oil  in these articles.

How can you as a company benefit from process heat utilization?

The energy consumption of companies is largely determined by the demand for process heat. For this reason, process heat also has a significant impact on companies’ operating costs. Reducing energy consumption for process heat generation is therefore in the economic interest of companies. At the same time, legislators are imposing increasingly stringent requirements on energy efficiency and setting financial incentives to reduce CO2 emissions.

For energy-intensive companies in industry and commerce, investing in more efficient process heat generation and utilization usually pays off quickly. Measures such as investing in modern boilers, integrating renewable energy sources, or extracting waste heat for reuse not only protect the company’s liquidity, but also the environment.

How does Aura make process heat usable?

As an experienced process heat specialist, Aura develops highly efficient solutions for industry. Our innovative process heat systems are used across industries and range from efficient thermal oil heating systems and indirect steam generators to hot water systems, water bath heaters and edible oil heating systems.

Our innovative products are used in numerous industries, from mechanical and system engineering to energy technology, the chemical industry, the food industry, the oil and gas sector, and the timber industry. We combine all core competencies from project planning and design to production, documentation, service and maintenance under one roof. With our help, you can reduce the power consumption of industry. Contact us and let us advise you on your individual energy-saving potential.


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