Industrial process heat is the use of thermal energy to produce, treat, or alter manufactured goods.
Process heat is the most significant source of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector, accounting for about 50% of all onsite energy use and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the 2018 Manufacturing Energy and Carbon Footprint analysis. Process heating systems are emission-intensive because fossil fuel combustion provides 95% of industrial heat across the manufacturing sector.
In all process heating systems, energy is transferred from a heat source (such as burners and electric heaters) to a material. A material handling system transports materials through the heating system, with an enclosure often used to isolate the material from the heat source.
There are a vast array of processes and operations that use heat across the industrial sector, each with its own set of decarbonization pathways. Process heating systems raise or maintain the temperature of materials involved in the manufacturing process, such as the melting of scrap in electric arc furnaces to make steel, separating components of crude oil in petroleum refining, drying paint in automobile manufacturing, or processing food for safe consumption. Application temperatures range from 80°C, used to pasteurize milk and cream, to well over 1000°C to make cement.
Process heating systems need to deliver a reliable supply of energy, have robust controls, and be made of durable materials that can withstand high temperatures, physical wear, and corrosion, sometimes for months or years without interruption.