Large electrical heat pumps can be key to decarbonising Europe’s industry

(EurActiv, 1 Apr 2024) Though the EU has focused much of its industrial decarbonisation drive on the production and use of hydrogen, in a factory west of Milan, Italy, a quiet revolution is underway – the electrification of lower-temperature heat.

Industrial heat demand is one of the largest individual drivers of energy consumption, a large chunk of this demand is for temperatures below 200°C, accounting for 37% of industrial demand in Germany, according to a study by the Berlin-based think-tank Agora Energiewende.

Large heat pumps are at the forefront of efforts to decarbonise this heat demand. Like heat pumps for houses or apartments, these machines use electricity to multiply ambient heat in the air, ground, or water. But unlike domestic versions, they are hundreds of times more powerful, cost millions of euros, and can cheaply produce temperatures of up to 200 °C – if provided with the right heat source.

Sub-200°C industrial heat is typically used to produce steam, as used in the chemical industry, or for drying process in paper manufacture. 

Italian supplier Turboden is installing a 12 MW heat pump for a pulp and paper producer in Finland, whose job is to take 100 °C heat from factory exhaust and boost it to a scalding 170 °C. 

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EurActiv, 1 Apr 2024: Large electrical heat pumps can be key to decarbonising Europe’s industry