Using waste heat in the paper industry with innovative heat pumps

Many industrial processes release heat with a temperature that is too low to be deployed, the so-called waste heat. Innovative deployment of heat pumps enhances opportunities to increase the temperature of the waste heat and to use this heat in an economically efficient way in the industrial process. Huge energy gains are realised this way. ECN is collaborating with partners in the development of heat pumps and is now going to test them in the (energy intensive) paper industry.


The Dutch Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) enables co-operation between industry and knowledge institutes such as ECN. Together with Smurfit Kappa, IBK and Bronswerk Heat Transfer, ECN has started a project within ISPT that will explore the deployment of heat pumps in the paper industry. Smurfit Kappa is a multinational manufacturer of paper packaging products. Bronswerk Heat Transfer and IBK are technology suppliers in the field of heat and cold.

(Photo: Smurfit Kappa Group)

Compression heat pump

To reuse the waste heat that is released during the drying of paper, the temperature needs to be increased from about 60°Celsius to approximately 140°Celsius. To this end, the partners are developing a compression heat pump. This pump will be tested at SmurfitKappa and is expected to yield a 10 per cent saving in steam use if applied on a full scale. This does not only reduce the cost of the production process; it also becomes more sustainable.

Thermo-acoustic and thermo-chemical heat pumps

For the longer term, ECN is developing thermo-acoustic and thermo-chemical heat pumps. These have an even larger saving potential. Their great advantage is that they can operate in a broad range of temperatures and that they are able to bridge large differences in temperature between waste heat and deployable heat. Both technologies offer many opportunities, not only for the paper industry but also for the food industry, the chemical industry and refineries.

Growing interest

Reuse of waste heat by means of a heat pump can make not only paper production much more efficient, but also other industrial processes. That is why industrial heat pumps are seeing a growing interest from trade and industry. ECN would also like to help other industrial sectors lower their energy costs.

Would you like to find out how heat pumps can make your business operations more efficient, more sustainable and more affordable? ECN’s Bert Rietveld will gladly think along with you. Give him a call at +31 6 53292766.