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Integrated conceptual design of a robust and reliable

waste-heat district heating system

Augustine N. Ajah
, Anish C. Patil
, Paulien M. Herder
, Johan Grievink
Energy and Industry Group, Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, 2600 GA, Delft, Netherlands
Process Systems Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science, Delft University of Technology, 2600 GA, Delft, Netherlands
Received 20 December 2005; accepted 7 February 2006
Available online 6 May 2006
The various governmental policies aimed at reducing the dependence on fossil fuels for space heating and the reduction in its asso-
ciated emission of greenhouse gases such as CO
demands innovative measures. District heating systems using residual industrial waste
heats could provide such an ecient method for house and space heating. In such systems, heat is produced and/or thermally upgraded
in a central plant and then distributed to the nal consumers through a pipeline network.
This paper studies the technical, economic, institutional and environmental feasibilities of using low-level residual industrial waste
heat for the district heating of Delft, The Netherlands.
An integrated conceptual design approach that takes into account both the technical and institutional design of the system has been
adopted and has resulted in a feasible and robust system design. The technical part of the integrated conceptual design consisted in the
estimation of the heat demands, the design of the heat upgrading system, equipment sizing, the network morphology and/or spatial con-
nectivity and the exergy losses in the needed infrastructure as well as the economic viability of the system. An isopropanolhydrogen
acetone chemical heat pump was selected for the process and has been modelled in ASPEN plus

. The conventional cost estimation

model has been modied to account for uncompensated system downtimes.
2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Robust and reliable design; Residual waste heat; District heating; Waste-to-heat; Chemical heat pump
1. Introduction
A lot of facilities and homes still generally rely on fuel oil,
electricity or gas as their primary energy source for various
heating requirements. However, with the ever increasing
demand for fossil-based fuels, and the resultant emission
of vast amounts of greenhouse gases, the use of more inno-
vative, sustainable and cost-eective sources of primary
heating energy sources is becoming imperative. Several
works have emerged on useful waste to energy solutions
as well as innovative recovery techniques [13], that could
help reduce this dependence on fossil-based fuels. Also the
use of both industrial waste heats and other natural low-
temperature heat sources (geothermal, solar, etc.) in district
and space heating have received greater research attention
[48]. Such low-temperature heat sources may not be prac-
tically useable at their current state (temperature) but could
be thermally upgraded into useful heat sinks. The waste
heat upgrading could be technically possible through heat
pumps (chemical, mechanical and solar). The mechanical
heat pump has far more wider application than the chemical
and solar heat pumps. Nonetheless, research is seriously
ongoing in the technical and economic feasibility of using
Chemical Heat Pumps (CHP) for waste heat upgrading
for district heating. Literature review indicates that these
work centre on the technical and economic feasibility of
1359-4311/$ - see front matter 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Address: Energy and Industry Group, Faculty
of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology,
2600 GA, Delft, Netherlands. Tel.: +31 15 27 83716; fax: +31 15 27 83422.
E-mail address: (A.N. Ajah).
Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 11581164
using the chemical heat pumps for district heating [914],
the modelling and optimization of investment decision
and retrot strategy in district heating [15,16], without
emphasis on the conceptual design.
In this paper, we have taken a wider and extended
approach by not only studying the technical, economic
and environmental feasibility but also the institutional fea-
sibility and conceptual design of a system for upgrading
residual waste heat of an existing pharmaceutical industry
for use in district heating of a neighbourhood in the City
of Delft, The Netherlands. From a process systems engi-
neering perspective, the use of this residual pharmaceutical
waste heat for the district heating, not only forms a basis for
substantial reduction in net fossil-based energy require-
ments but also creates room for more environmentally
benign industrial synergy and proper resource utilization.
Our study stands out from other ongoing research from
an integrated design viewpoint (we have taken the institu-
tional design into account). The remaining part of the paper
is organised as follows, in Section 2, the heat distribution
prole and demand is worked out. Section 3 dwells on the
screening and selection of the heat upgrading technology
while in Section 4, the system description is given. The sys-
tems component sizing and the economic analysis of the
process are considered in Sections 5 and 6 respectively while
the institutional design of the process is treated in Section 7.
Finally we discuss the conclusion and recommendations.
2. Heat distribution and demand model
In estimating the actual heat requirements of the area
within the battery limit of the design, the degreehours
(DH) model is used. DH is a concept for enhancing a more
robust estimation of the energy requirements for space heat-
ing by taking into account the external temperature varia-
tions during dierent seasons. In other words, it allows
for the incorporation of the harshness of the weather in a
region during a given season, into the energy demand
model. Its importance could be justied by the fact that
the total heat requirements of dwellings depend not only
on the thermal insulation of such dwelling areas but also
on the climatic condition of the area under study. The
DH model used is depicted as follows:
s f g 1
where DH is the degreehours, T
is the demanded indoor
temperature (averaged to 18 C in this study), T
is the
external temperature and s is the hours for which the dier-
ence between the demanded indoor temperature and the
external temperature is positive. To accommodate occa-
sional variability of the weather in the design, three sepa-
rate degreehours scenarios (low, medium and high) as
shown in Fig. 1 were considered. This has culminated in
three dierent total heating hours and/or degreehours of
(64,416, 73,296, and 84,000 C h) (averaged out) in the
design. Both the heat requirements for new buildings to
be sited and existing buildings were accounted for.
The design assumption (which is based on the Dutch
building and energy performance regulation) is that all
houses are energy ecient with thermal insulation at a level
considerably higher than prescribed. This building and
energy performance standard expressed in energy perfor-
mance coecient (EPC) is a means of reducing the con-
sumption of energy in buildings, and consequently the
emission of carbon dioxide into the environment. In this
study an average EPC of less than 1.0 (0.99) in the old build-
ings is used while in new buildings the EPC is even lower
(0.88). Larger households generally require more energy
hourly heat demand (J/h)
DH degreehours, (C h)
demanded internal temperature (C)
external temperature (C)
s hours for which T
is positive (h)
g system eciency ()
U wall conductance (W/m
correction factor ()
COP coecient of performance ()
FDR forced down ratio ()
reliability-accounted-for cash ow in year i
(MU/y) (MU = Monetary Unit)
r discounted rate (which captures time value of
money) (MU/y)
i particular year under consideration (y)
N total number of time periods (y)
total revenue in year i, (MU/y)
production cost in year i, (MU/y)
total annual investment (capital) cost in year i
k operational availability
market sales of products or by-products (MU)
continuous variable describing the physical
ow/stream quantity of component j (m
price per unit of j stream (heat, steam) (MU)
planned downtime (d/y)
unplanned downtime (d/y)
operational time i.e. total uptime (d/y)
conventional investment cost (MU)
availability factor ()
mean time before failure of component or sub-
system i (failure/y)
mean time to repair of component or subsystem
i (repair/y)
A.N. Ajah et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 11581164 1159
to heat and thus more demand for heat. As a result of this,
we have modied the ASHRAEs relationship [17] for esti-
mating the heat demand by incorporating a correction fac-
tor C
to reect the sizes of households. The total heat
demand has been estimated using the modied ASHRAE
relations as follows:
DH3600=g 2
where E
is the hourly heat demand, U, the wall conduc-
tance (W/m
C), DH, the degreehours (C h) and g is
the eciency of the heating system, 3600 is a time conver-
sion coecient.
The number of districts, the existing and new houses and
apartments to be built in the considered districts as well as
their estimated heat demands are as shown in Table 1. The
demand data presented include both the demand for space
heating and that for domestic hot water. A total annual heat
demand of 780 TJ/y (0.74 10
Btu/y) for both the existing
and new dwelling networks in the districts resulted.
Having estimated the heat demands, the supply of these
districts with the demanded heat is the next design task.
The next section discusses the selection of the heat upgrad-
ing unit for the ecient production and supply of this heat.
3. Selection of the heat upgrading unit
The heat upgrading unit is central to the entire system
design. Heat upgrading could be carried out using the heat
pumps which are machines that raise heat from a low-tem-
perature state to a higher temperature state under the
supply of work. Three forms of heat pumps could be distin-
guished, the chemical, mechanical and solar heat pumps. In
the selection process, several criteria were developed for the
screening and selection of a suitable heat pump from a tech-
nical, sustainability and aordability point of view. The
screening criteria and scores of the heat pumps, mechanical
(MHP), solar (SHP) and chemical (CHP) are as shown in
Table 2.
These scores are based on literature source [10,11,13,
14,21]. Though mostly qualitative, the result reveals that
the chemical heat pump is the best choice. Although the
solar heat pump is the best option for the environment, it
is not reliable enough, because there may be too little sunny
hours in the Netherlands for the solar heat pump unit. The
mechanical heat pump is less environmentally friendly,
because it needs greater energy input which may add to
greenhouse gas emissions. The chemical heat pump also
has an impact on the environment, because a lot of the
used chemicals are toxic. However, it consumes less energy
than an electrical heat pump, because energy is released in
the reactions. From reliability and maintainability view
points, the chemical and electrical heat pumps promise to
be more reliable. Also the reliability of the various compo-
nents of the heat pump selected, the chemical heat pump,
was assessed. This was with a view to select the components
that will improve the overall system reliability. Nonethe-
less, making such a selection comes at a cost. The eciency
of the heat pumps expressed as their coecient of perfor-
mance COP was also analysed. The chemical heat pump
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec


Heat Demand Profile
low degree-hours
medium degree-hours
high degree-hours
Fig. 1. Annual heat demand prole.
Table 1
Heat demands of the districts and housing systems studied
Districts Description Houses Apartments Heat demand (TJ)
New Existing New Existing
A Residential area 164 1294 55
B Residential area 300 8 350 650 50
C Residential area 1395 215 190
D Hospital, bank 89
E Shopping-centre and schools 5124 766 213
F Small shopping-centres and schools 4410 1470 183
Total 780
Table 2
Comparison of mechanical, solar and chemical heat pumps
Performance 0.90 0.70 1.40
Operating costs 0.15 /kWh 0.054 /kWh 0.028 /kWh
Reliability/maintainability ++ ++ ++
Operability + + ++
Durability + ++ ++
Safety + ++ ++
Sustainability +
Technical status ++ ++ +
Environmental impact ++ +
++ = Very good; + = good; = poor.
1160 A.N. Ajah et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 11581164
turns out to have the highest COP of 1.40. This perfor-
mance depends among other things, on the dierence in
inlet and outlet temperatures.
As this temperature dierence becomes smaller, there
may be a dramatic increase in the COP, making it a good
choice for this low-temperature heating case study. The
system under study is considered a low-temperature heat-
ing system because of the low-grade nature of the residual
heat source (at a temperature of 2535 C).
4. Process description
The low-level temperature industrial waste heat, gener-
ated by a pharmaceutical plant in the North of the city, at
a temperature of between 25 and 35 C is routed to the heat
upgrading unit where the temperature is raised to the
required heat level by heat pumps before being taken to
the central grid. To enhance the system eectiveness and
exibility, the steam from the main grid is taken to a mod-
ular (district) grid where the possible connection to the
dwelling abodes and oces are made as shown in Fig. 2.
The low-temperature hot water from the dwellings is again
recycled back to the heat upgrading unit for further heat
upgrade for better conservation of energy. The distance
from the pharmaceutical plant (source of residual waste
heat) to the existing dwellings and new areas to be devel-
oped ranges from 2 to 6 km. Apart from the moderate heat
for the city heating, the system could be tuned such that
steam could be produced from the chemical heat pump
which could be sold back to the pharmaceutical company
or to the power producers to improve the economy of the
process. This is important with respect to the maintenance
of the turn-down ratio of the system. During the summer
when the external temperature is high, the system could
be tuned to the production of steam and/or electricity and
in so doing, keeping the turn-down ratio at the required
level. With this exibility, the system could handle any uc-
tuation or deviation from one demand scenario to the other.
However, the extra revenue that could accrue from the sales
of electricity or steam produced in the system was not taken
into consideration in the economic analysis since such pro-
duction is still shrouded with uncertainty.
The entire system behavioural features the waste-water
system as energy carrier, the upgrading and recycling, and
the quality of the energy are as depicted in the nger-
print diagram of Fig. 2. For a comprehensive energy bal-
ance around the heat upgrading unit, the energy required
by the reboiler of the distillation column as well as the
energy for the pre-heating of the waste heat and the energy
required to power the compressor have been taken into
5. System components sizing
5.1. Sizing of heat upgrading unit
From Section 3, the chemical heat pump has been
selected for the heat upgrading. Chemical heat pumps are
becoming increasingly attractive because of their ability
to raise residual low-grade industrial heat sources to useful
high-temperature energy sinks, with relatively little energy
inputs for such a temperature upgrade. From a previous
Heat Upgrading Unit
Central Grid
Waste-Heat Input
District Buildings
Waste-Heat recycle
Building A
Building B
Building C
Building D
Building N
- -
Upgraded Heat
Upgraded Heat
Building A
Building B
Building C
Building D
Building N
- -
Qin = 3.2MW
= 25-35
Qout =35MW
= 170-210
= 5.6MW
Modular District Grids
Fig. 2. System diagram of the DHS.
A.N. Ajah et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 11581164 1161
techno-economic feasibility assessment of using a chemical
heat pump for industrial waste heat upgrading [9], it has
been asserted that the salt/ammonia vapour heat pump
has a much better technical performance than the other
types of chemical heat pumps. But due to the low heat con-
tent of the waste heat, we have selected the isopropanol
heat pump (which ranks second in technical performance
but supports low heat content waste heats) for further
development. The pieces of equipment of the heat pump
as shown in Fig. 3 have been sized.
It is composed of two reactors, a distillation column, a
heat exchanger and a compressor. At the endothermic reac-
tor the low-temperature waste heat is absorbed by means of
the endothermic dehydrogenation of isopropanol into ace-
tone and hydrogen at the waste heat-temperature level and
under RuPt or CuCr catalyst. The acetone and hydrogen
produced are separated from the unreacted isopropanol in
the distillation column, and the isopropanol (the bottom
product) is sent back to the endothermic reactor while
the separated acetone and hydrogen are routed to a com-
pressor (to compensate for any pressure drop). The com-
pressed hydrogenacetone heat carriers are further sent
to the exothermic reactor where hydrogenation, catalyzed
by Ni catalyst, takes place, liberating a vast amount of
heat. The product of the exothermic reactor is sent back
to the heat exchanger where it exchanges heat with the
reactor feeds before being routed back to the distillation
column. The reaction equations are as shown:

CHOH (l) $ CH

CO g H
62:7 kJ/mol and DH
55:0 kJ/mol
The system units were modelled in ASPEN plus

with the
endothermic reactor and distillation column, modelled
together as a reactive-distillation column using the equilib-
rium model while the hydrogenation reactor was modelled
as an equilibrium reactor. The industrial waste-heat content
of 100 TJ/y (9.48 10
Btu/y) was converted into waste
heat input amounting to 3.2 MW for use in the endothermic
reactor part of the reactive-distillation column. The
exothermic reactor volume was sized at 44.2 m
and the
reactive-distillation unit sizes were: diameter = 4.0 m,
height = 14.2 m, molar reux ratio = 2.6, total number of
stages = 18 with feed plate location at the 9th tray.
5.2. District heating pipe sizing
The sizes of the district heating pipes (diameters and
length) for various spatial connectivity have been estimated
using the conventional pipe sizing equations [18]. A total of
182 km pipeline distribution network (of pre-fabricated
steel with polyurethane foam as insulation and polyethyl-
ene shield protector) with diameters ranging from 0.2 to
0.8 m have been estimated for linking the prospective
demand areas under consideration. The total exergy losses
(both due to ow and thermal losses) in the entire pipe net-
work were estimated at 6 MW.
6. Economic assessment
In the economic feasibility assessment a more realistic
approach, where the cost of reliability is incorporated,
have been taken as described below. The total cost of the
project is divided into four categories. The purchase cost
of the system components, the construction cost of the sys-
tem, the installation cost and the operation and mainte-
nance cost. The total revenue of the project is built up by
three aspects, the xed charge for space heating, the reve-
nue accruing from the supply of heat and the once-paid
connection fee. The xed charge is a monthly fee from
the customers, for using the system. The revenue from
the supply of heat is the money received (yearly) for the
supplied heat. For both aspects the rates (prices) were
taken from a local energy company [19]. Heat pump prices
were obtained from commercial companies and also from
The net present value of the system was estimated using
the relation
1 r
where CF
is the reliability-accounted-for cash ow in year
i, r is the discounted rate (which captures the time value of
Fig. 3. Units of isopropanolacetonehydrogen (IAH) chemical heat pump.
1162 A.N. Ajah et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 11581164
money), i is the particular year under consideration, N is
the total number of time periods.
where R
is the total revenue in year i, C
is the production
cost in year i, K
is the total annual investment (capital) cost
in year i. Though the cost of acquisition of the capital piece
of equipment are sometimes done once (one time payment)
before the commissioning phase, in such a case, to get the
annual capital cost, the total acquisition cost is distributed
over the range of the system lifespan.
6.1. Revenue model
The total revenue per year R
is estimated as
where k is the operational availability, p
is the market sales
of products or by-products of the designed system, given as
is the continuous variable describing the physical ow or
stream quantity of component j, 1
is the price per unit of j
stream (heat, steam).
1 FDR365 T

The forced down ratio (FDR) is given as
where T
is the planned downtime (d/y), T
is the
unplanned downtime (d/y), T
is the operational time i.e.
total uptime (d/y).
6.2. Investment (capital) cost model
In most conventional cost estimation models investment
costs are usually calculated without accounting for the reli-
ability attributes of the system or subsystems (compo-
nents). Thus in reality, various system units with varying
degree of reliability may have varying costs of acquisition.
Accounting for this, an availability cost factor that is expo-
nentially related to the system investment cost proposed by
[20] has been adopted in this model. The system component
availability has been modelled as follows:

where (MTBF)
and (MTTR)
are the mean time before
failure and mean time to repair respectively, of component
or subsystem i respectively. The availability cost factor F
is given by

is the actual availability of the component or subsystem
i, A
, the standard availability of the component or sub-
system i, often taken as 0.95. Incorporating Eqs. 9 and
10 into the conventional cost model, the resulting cost
model, the availability cost model becomes
where K
is the conventional investment cost at standard
availability. Also, this holds true for the estimation of the
maintenance cost.
As an illustrative application, two separate designs were
carried out using the conventional cost model (without
explicit reliability consideration and without the incorpora-
tion of availability factor in the cost estimation model) and
our proposed extended model (with an explicit reliability
consideration and the incorporation of availability factor
in the cost estimation model). The total investment was
evaluated at 1.6 billion for the conventional design and
almost 2 billion for the reliability considered design and
includes the cost of the heat pumps, pipes, etc. The annual
earning from the delivered thermal energy was estimated at
875 million, and a discounted pay back period of ve years
for the reliability considered design and 4 years if reliability
is not taken into consideration, as shown in Table 3. As can
be seen from Table 3, the conventional design which
ignored the availability factor has far more performance
in all the economic indicators. This is because the uncom-
pensated downtimes are not accounted for. This is an overly
positive expectation about the overall availability of the sys-
tem which often turns out to be lower in reality than
planned for and may often result in lower incomes than esti-
mated. The design which took into account the availability
cost factor has almost 17% negative deviation from the eco-
nomic performances achieved using the conventional
design. From the foregoing, it could be concluded that
incorporating reliability in the systems comes at a cost
(the cost of the reliability considered system is compara-
tively higher). However, the unaccounted cost of low
availability is expected, on long term basis, to exceed the
cost of reliability consideration because products of such
a system will in reality be erroneously sold at giveaway cost
prices. Therefore, such costs should be determined early and
used for assessing the overall system economic feasibility.
7. Institutional design
Apart from the technical design of the system, the insti-
tutional design which takes into account institutional
Table 3
Economic eects of reliability integration in the cost models
Without availability
With availability
Investment (10
) 1.6 1.9
NPV (10
) 3.4 2.8
POT (y) 4.0 5.0
ROR (%) 4.2 3.3
A.N. Ajah et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 27 (2007) 11581164 1163
aspects that could impact the design and realization of the
heating infrastructures were studied. Firstly, the institu-
tional environment is analysed vis-a`-vis the: building, oper-
ation and ownership of the infrastructure and supply of
heat. Secondly, the suitability of possible contracts between
public and private parties involved in this project is dis-
cussed. Lastly, the nature and impact of (future) regulation
in the heating sector is considered from two perspectives:
other energy markets and opinions of relevant parties.
After the analysis of the institutional environment around
the construction, operation, nance and ownership of the
heating infrastructure and the review of the suitability of
various types of contracts between public and private par-
ties, it is concluded that a concession or design, build,
nance and operate (DBFO) contract is the most prefera-
ble and suitable form of contract. Due to high capital
investment involved in constructing large-scale heating
infrastructure the local municipality (assumed owner of
the project) would like the responsibilities for designing,
building, nancing and operating to be transferred to pri-
vate sector partners. It is most ecient that the owner
and user of the grid are one party or function as one. Con-
tracts and process conditions can help to establish this.
Future legislation may have major impacts on the design.
Such legislation should be simulated (if not in existence)
and the possible impacts on the technical design, assessed
and mitigation, exibility or robustness measures (based
on the outcome of such assessment), incorporated into
the design. During the design, future legislations such as
changes in taxes for primary fuels, subsidies for new
technologies and energy market, etc. were simulated and
their impacts (present and future) on the design, duly
8. Conclusion and recommendations
The technical, environmental, economic and institu-
tional feasibility of using an industrial waste heat as a
heat source for district heating in the City of Delft has
been explored. The study shows that the project is techni-
cally, economically, and institutionally feasible and could
lead to greater resource utilization. Proper resources utili-
zation in the sense that this waste to heat technique is
thermodynamically more useful than the current practice
of converting natural gas with high exergy content into
ue gas at very high temperature and then using it to heat
water for space heating. In the proposed design, an inte-
grated (technical and institutional) conceptual design
approach has been suggested for a more robust design.
From the technical side, a high and low-temperature
heating system design is proposed; low-temperature sys-
tem for new buildings (with improved insulation) and a
high-temperature system for old buildings with rela-
tively lower EPC than the new buildings. On the institu-
tional design, concession (DBFO) approach has been
The authors would like to acknowledge the dedicated
work of the M.Sc. students Evelien Babbe, Krupa Iyer,
and Catharine van Wijmen, who worked on this project
with us.
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