Oilon’s intense 15-year R&D with industrial heat pumps is now bearing fruit.

Take any international scenario for reducing carbon emissions, and you will see heat pumps in a key role. According to the International Energy Agency IEA, for example, heat pumps will cover 50 percent of the heating of buildings by 2045. The agency predicts the monthly amount of installed heat pumps will soar from 1.5 million to 3–5 million in 2030.

The reason for the spectacular growth is simple: heat pump technology is a very efficient means to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to cut carbon emissions from the energy sector and industry. According to IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2021 report, wide utilization of heat pumps is compulsory to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Energy companies take on large heat pumps

Industrial heat pumps function according to the same principle as the common air-to-air heat pumps for consumers, but the amount of energy produced can be thousandfold. Industrial heat pumps typically use waste heat or the heat energy absorbed in the outside air as their heat source. Large heat pumps can produce temperatures as high as 120 Celcius very cost-efficiently.

“This is now particularly interesting to energy companies who wish to use large heat pumps to replace coal and other fuels. Due to emissions trading schemes, climate regulation, and brand reputation, the companies are under great pressure to reduce their emissions,” says Martti Kukkola, Chief Business Officer, Oilon.

It is also about making a profit. The price hikes of coal, oil, and natural gas during 2021 have left many companies pondering alternatives. Oilon sees this phenomenon in the form of inquiries from new customers.

“The new factory is just the beginning”

The revenue of Oilon’s industrial heat pump business doubled in 2019 and again in 2020. In 2021, the growth continues although production has been slightly slowed by delays in the supply of components due to the COVID pandemic.

Oilon celebrated the inauguration of a new factory in Kokkola, Finland, in November 2021. The factory is dedicated to manufacturing industrial heat pumps.

“The prospects are so good that we wanted to quadruple the production capacity. Now we are capable of producing around 600 industrial heat pumps per year. This is only the beginning, though. We will probably have to expand the capacity already around 2025,” Kukkola says.

Globally, Oilon is best known for burners, but Kukkola predicts industrial heat pumps will be Oilon’s largest business unit in the future.

Customers inquire about 100 MW projects

Oilon has invested heavily in the R&D of large heat pumps for the last 15 years. The Coefficient of Performance (COP) has risen continuously and reaches 10 in ChillHeat solutions when both heating and cooling are produced. Not many manufacturers can reach temperatures of 120 degrees Celsius.

“The customers have taken note of the development, which is great. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to learn about the technology. For example, requests for quotations may include the requirement of the largest possible heat pumps although several smaller units can often be better. Our job is to find out which solution is the best choice for a particular customer in a particular project.”

The optimal solution depends on the application, heat source, the temperature of the required heat or cooling, circumstances, the property, and many other factors. The Oilon Selection Tool software helps customers to find the right solutions with Oilon’s experts.

The nameplate power rating of Oilon’s industrial heat pumps is from 30 kW to 2 MW. By connecting several heat pumps, “trains” are produced, and the combined output can be tens of megawatts. The series connection also helps to optimize part-load efficiency and overall performance.

“Customers are more and more interested in large heat pump systems of up to 100 MW and more”, Kukkola says.

Energy from two kilometers underground

All of Oilon’s industrial heat pumps are produced in the new factory in Kokkola, Finland. In 2020, four out of five pumps were exported. The most important target regions are Europe, China, and South America. A new promising market is North America, where Oilon is currently opening sales.

Applications for industrial heat pumps come in a wide variety. Oilon’s reference projects can be found via the links:

  • District heating. Outside air or waste heat from cooling, for example, is used as the heat source. Industrial heat pumps are typically used to replace the power produced by power stations in the district heating network. When coal is being replaced, the emission reductions are at their largest.
  • Combined heating and cooling. Oilon ChillHeat systems produce green heat and cooling for buildings simultaneously. Property-specific heat pumps are a convenient solution when the facility is located outside district heating and cooling networks.
  • Utilizing flue gases. The flue gases of heating are directed to a heat pump which removes the heat energy from the gases to the water circulating in the heating system.
  • Battery parks. Large battery parks of hundreds of megawatts in capacity are becoming common around the world. They are needed to bring flexibility to electricity grids with fluctuating wind and solar energy. Industrial heat pumps are used to cool the batteries and remove their waste heat to a district heating network, for example.
  • Recycling energy in industrial facilities. Industrial processes produce vast amounts of waste heat that is often directed straight out of the facility without being utilized in any way. A better idea is to recover the waste heat with industrial heat pumps. With large heat pumps, the waste heat can be turned into 120-degree Celcius heat. The same pump system can also be used to produce cooling energy.
  • Medium-deep geothermal wells. At the bottom of 2km-deep geothermal wells, the temperature is a steady 40 degrees Celsius. Large heat pumps are used to transfer the heat to a district heating system, which can decrease the carbon emissions of heating by up to 95 percent.
  • Food industry. In food factories, dairies, meat-processing plants, and many other facilities in the food industry, heat and cooling are needed at the same time. Industrial heat pumps are a cost-efficient and environmentally sound solution. The pumps typically use waste heat as the heat source or directly produce cooling whenever needed.