Decarbonisation of process heat in the South Island (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Management
Degree NameMaster of Engineering in Management
This report and associated deliverables have been completed in partial fulfilment of the Master of Engineering Management degree at the University of Canterbury. The primary objective of this project was to produce a white paper for Deta Consulting Ltd. detailing the demand and availability of renewable fuels and technologies in the South Island to replace fossil fuels used in generating process heat. This project relied on information gathered by Deta and public information taken from sources assumed to be reliable. Process heat that can be abated at this stage are boilers used for low (under 100°C) to medium (100-300°C) temperatures. Most heat produced in these boilers are for hot water and steam and is produced from coal. Industries are primarily considering three alternative technologies. Biomass, because it operates similarly to coal, and coal boilers can be retrofitted for use with biomass. Heat pumps because their fuel cost is the cheapest, however they are limited by the temperatures they can produce. And electrical boilers, which are cheap to install, and their capacities range from 30 kW to 34 MW. Deta’s work with Transpower has led to a master database on process heat, which has enabled them to determine that fossil fuels make up 1458 MW of the total boiler capacity in the South Island. The database categorises users by region, fuel type, and industry. Deta’s aim was to compare this information with the total capacity of renewables. The first deliverable of this project was to gather data on electricity forecast loads and capacities and begin developing a decarbonisation model, starting with the capability to convert fossil fuel boilers to electrical boilers. In the process of researching and gathering data for the deliverable, it became evident that the constraints Deta were seeking to apply to electrical boilers were not feasible within the timeframe. The second deliverable, after determining the constraint on electrical boilers that could be applied to the decarbonisation model, was to determine the limitations of heat pumps and biomass for abating fossil fuels. These three renewable technologies were then compared with the current consumption of fossil fuels and presented in a technical report that details the methods used to develop the decarbonisation model, their results, and implications. The final deliverable, and primary goal of the thesis, was the white paper. The results presented in the white paper show that sufficient biomass exists across South Island to replace fossil fuels if heat pumps replace boilers under 85°C. However, considering the cost of transport, biomass becomes constrained by the region in which it’s harvested. The results show that two regions, the West Coast and Canterbury, will need to consider alternative energy sources. By 2031 the Canterbury region will need 7.6 PJ or 55% of its heat energy from electrical boilers or other technologies. That is equivalent to 35% of Canterbury’s current yearly electricity consumption. Marlborough, Tasman, Otago, and Southland regions all have sufficient biomass to completely abate fossil fuels. Detailed research is needed to fully understand the South Island’s capability to convert fossil fuel boilers to renewables. Other considerations include determining the practicable electricity capacity for process heat users and the realistic cost of transporting biomass from neighbouring regions. Other technologies that could be considered include producing biofuels in regions with excess wood fibres and producing biogas from food waste. This project could not have been completed without Deta’s sponsorship. Their proprietary knowledge and industry connections were invaluable in facilitating the research.
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