What Is Industrial Process Heating?

Industrial process heating allows companies to use thermal energy to assist with manufacturing processes or treatment of various materials and products. For example, thermal energy may be introduced to help fabricate, modify, or enhance the properties of steel, plastic, glass, cement, composites, textiles, and chemical products used in industrial processes.

Nearly three-quarters of energy across the globe is used by industrial applications. The majority of manufacturers use industrial process heating of some kind in their operations, including indirect heating to hold stable temperatures within a facility or direct heating for drying applications.

Types of Process Heating Solutions

The right process heating solution for your business will be based on the materials you want to heat and your heat source’s location. Several heating solutions are available to fit your specific needs.

Thermal fluid process heating systems warm and recirculate thermal oil or other thermal fluids to generate indirect heat. The system then supplies it to various materials, machinery, or process systems. This indirect heat helps reduce the chances that equipment will experience damage or workers will sustain burns. Additionally, the controllability of thermal fluid systems makes precise alterations to temperature possible.

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These safe systems use a simple bath solution to heat substances indirectly. Many of these systems use water-glycol solutions for low-temperature process heating as high as 250° F, while specialty operations requiring higher temperatures can use salt melts to achieve this. Process bath heaters submerge a heater within the bath solution, which sits at the base of the heater vessel. The process coil in the tube-style burner warms up and subsequently heats the process medium flowing through the system.

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Biomass Energy Systems assist in the combustion of waste materials in an efficient manner, minimizing emissions and leveraging a range of fuels. Fuel feed, furnace, and ash conveyor systems are included.

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Direct fired heater designs are available in a wide variety of configurations including API 560 compliant, non-API radiant convective, and convection only style.

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Waste Heat Recovery Units (WHRUs) recover the thermal energy from the hot exhaust and gases discharged by industrial equipment such as incinerators and turbines. This energy is then repurposed to heat other media and materials, including asphalt and oil. WHRUs are available in various designs and styles. By capturing heat that would otherwise go to waste, WHRUs allow facilities to use that energy for other applications, making them a valuable addition to various industries. They can greatly improve the overall efficiency of industrial plants.

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Also called inline heaters, circulation heaters are applicable for systems involving gasses, steam, oils, or other such fluids. They act as a custom solution in corrosive or high-temperature system applications. These systems lessen process heat loss by containing their heat-generating components within insulated steel vessels. This construction also allows for superior efficiency in the heaters’ rate of heat transfer.

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The most prevalent of industrial process heating systems, immersion heaters are highly efficient. These heaters can reach temperatures as high as 1,200° F and have the ability to heat up tank contents of up to 500,000 gallons. Housings for immersion heaters may consist of either carbon steel or stainless steel, to best address your application’s requirements. They’re also available in models that resist leaks and explosions to protect joints within terminal housing.

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Types of Fuel Sources for Industrial Heating Solutions

Industrial processing uses four main heat sources:

  • Fossil Fuels

    Industrial heating solutions that utilize fossil fuel-based sources produce heat energy through combustion. The ignition of solids, liquids, and gasses allows systems like ovens, furnaces, kilns, infrared heaters, smelters, and high-temp generators to produce indirect or direct heating using radiant heat transfer or convection, respectively. Fuel options include coal, oil, or gas that produces heat energy when burned. Indirect heating systems will use a combination of burner tubes and exhaust systems that ensure the fuel source doesn’t come into contact with process materials while allowing the heat to transfer through the tube to heat the material within it, similar to the workings of a water heater.

  • Biomass

    Industrial heating solutions may also use biomass, which is the most extensive type of non-fossil bioenergy source. Given their similarity to fossil fuels, which already have widespread uses for energy, biomass fuels are likewise suitable for the majority of industrial heating applications. Biomass produces bioenergy using many types of feedstock, including agricultural or wood waste material, as well as options for feedstock conversion pathways to generate process heat. Outside of direct combustion, there are also such pre-processing methods as liquefaction, torrefaction, and gasification.

  • Electricity

    Some industrial process heating solutions use electricity as fuel. Direct heating systems that use this fuel source tend to transfer electricity into workpieces and materials, while indirect systems use methods such as convection, conduction, and radiation. Induction heating systems, infrared ovens, and electric arc or vacuum furnaces typically use electric-based heat energy.

  • Hybrid

    Hybrid industrial heating systems may use a combination of fuel sources, technologies, and heating approaches to produce the ideal energy level and increase cost-effectiveness. For example, electric and fuel-based systems can help reduce energy expenses because of their controlled usage of electricity, with a system’s boiler running on electric energy only at non-peak times when it’s cheaper. Hybrid systems may also use a combination of convection and electromagnetic heat to optimize the direct heating processes that industries use for drying.

Environments ranging from manufacturing facilities to those involved in heavy industry require reliable process heating systems to effectively maintain stability in controlling both temperature and processes for fluids like gasses and liquids. At Sigma Thermal Inc., our process heating systems can help your application benefit from improved efficiency as well as facility, equipment, and worker safety. Our high-quality process heating solutions use varying heat sources, giving our extensive product line the ability to meet diverse process heating needs.

Process Heating Applications

No manufacturing element utilizes direct energy more than process heating, with many industries and applications using these systems. Process heating is applicable for:

  • Appliances
  • Electronics
  • Heavy Machinery
  • Paper Goods
  • Food Processing
  • Computer Chips
  • Farming Equipment
  • Textiles
  • Healthcare Products
  • Automotive
  • Shipbuilding
  • Drying Paints & Coatings
  • Cosmetics

Maintenance Services

Industrial process heating allows companies to use thermal energy to assist with manufacturing processes or treatment of various materials and products. For example, thermal energy may be introduced to help fabricate, modify, or enhance the properties of steel, plastic, glass, cement, composites, textiles, and chemical products used in industrial processes.

Over time, industrial process heating systems will experience wear as components degrade via the buildup of debris or frequent contraction and expansion. Typically, immersion heaters see an output decrease of about one-third over a five-year period after initial installation. To help offset degradation, it’s important to conduct regular inspections of heating system elements based on the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s also best to have replacement heaters available in anticipation of a future breakdown, which will help minimize the potential for costly unscheduled downtime.

Request a Quote From Sigma Thermal

Sigma Thermal aims to provide you with the right industrial heating solution for your specific application. In addition to supplying a full spectrum of direct and indirect process heaters and systems, our international team of experienced professionals also provides such comprehensive services as design, engineering, automation, service, and retrofitting. We integrate superior project execution and engineering expertise with the customer support you need.

Contact us to learn more about our industrial process heating products and the Sigma Thermal difference, or request a quote today to start your project.

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