Co-gen. It doesn’t have an impressive, hi-tech name – but this technology is making industrial facilities more energy efficient than they have ever been.
It’s short for “co-generation,” the process of generating electricity and heat at the same time and making use of both in the place where they are generated.
ExxonMobil’s turbine at its refinery in Antwerp, Belgium, is a great example of co-gen technology improving energy efficiency at an industrial scale. The company makes products like low-sulfur fuel for ships at that facility and uses a natural gas turbine to power the operations.
The process of making electricity with the turbine generates two things: electricity (of course) and heat. Ordinarily, the heat would be wasted, but by putting a specially designed turbine right next to the refinery’s distillation facility, the company is able to make use of that heat in several ways.
Some excess steam from the turbine is siphoned off in pipes and used around the refinery. It is used to do things like operate pieces of machinery and to super heat crude oil during the refinery distillation process.
But, it’s not just Antwerp where co-gen is making progress. ExxonMobil has interest in more than 100 cogeneration facilities around the world.
Co-gen may not sound cool, but the technology can be a big deal in making the world more energy efficient.