Tailor-Made Insulation

Industrial plants are still wasting energy too often, because fittings and other plant components with complex surface molding remain uninsulated. For these kinds of components, ContiTech has now developed a highly adaptable insulation system, which cures all by itself when exposed to the plant’s heat – thanks to a silicone rubber from WACKER.

In every individual microsphere, the gas is trapped like in a balloon.

Industrial plants require heat to manufacture, process and finish products. This so-called process heat represents a significant cost factor, especially for energy-intensive sectors such as the chemical, metal-producing and metal-processing industries. According to a 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.

Nevertheless, many companies still neglect the thermal insulation of their plants. Substantial amounts of heat are lost to the surroundings, unused, via the surfaces of hot plant components. A study by the European Industrial Insulation Foundation (EIIF) shows that, in industrial plants, an average of ten percent of surfaces either completely lack insulation or are fitted with defective thermal insulation.

Mats Made of Mineral Wool

To insulate plant components that are hotter than 130 degrees Celsius, the only real option available to operators had previously been mineral wool. The long pipework that transports superheated steam to individual facilities at many large companies, for example, is insulated with mats made of mineral wool and clad with aluminum-coated zinc sheets – a proven and economical method. 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 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 such fittings. According to the German Energy Agency (dena), 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.