As you’re no doubt aware – insulation can be made of a whole host of other materials – fibreglass, cellulose, mineral wool. That being said, mica has very unique properties that make it an excellent choice as a basis for insulation in a range of industrial applications.
Here we’re going to look at a particular form of mica – muscovite mica – its properties and how it’s used by the industry and by Elmelin to make a variety of processes safer and more efficient. …
This blog looks at the challenges the petrochemical industry faces when it comes to the environment. It also specifically focuses on the part that microporous technology and mica products play in helping the industry meet these challenges.
Demand and Impact
The petrochemical industry’s impact on the environment is substantial. According to the Financial Times, it accounts for 18% of the global total of carbon dioxide emissions. This is a significant proportion if less than steel and cement, which rely mainly on coal.
It produces huge amounts of waste, included masses of discarded plastic.
Petrochemical production also involves major use of water, adding to increased demand and shortages in certain parts of the world.
However, the petrochemical market is also growing substantially. Petrochemicals are crucial in many leading industries, including automotive and telecommunications. Also, petrochemicals contribute to those industries regarded as leading the way in environmentally-friendly energy generation. This includes solar panels and wind turbines.
The IEA (International Energy Agency) says that demand for petrochemical products is surging, especially for plastics. Petrochemicals are becoming the largest driver of global oil demand.
This, then, is the chief dilemma the industry faces. It must continue to meet rising demand while finding ways to mitigate its environmental impact and develop new strategies to become more environmentally sound.
But what measures does the industry currently take to conserve energy and protect the environment?
Hazardous Processing Environments
The processing of petrochemicals is, by its nature, hazardous.
Offshore and chemical process industries require superior levels of high temperature insulation. This includes the use of materials that offer resistance to both high temperatures and thermal shock.
This insulation not only protects the processes and the people working in the industry but also the environment itself. It also helps to control the amount of energy these processes require.
With offshore platforms, for example, there is a risk of explosion and hydrocarbon fire, as occurred on the Piper Alpha platform in 1988. The fires from the accident created flames that reached heights of around 200 metres and a peak energy consumption rate that was three times the rate of total UK energy consumption.
More recently, in 2010, there was an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This triggered a disastrous oil spill. The equivalent of around 5,000 barrels a day spilling into the sea, 50 miles from the coast of Louisiana.
Platforms require extensive insulation. This needs to be effective for fire protection but lightweight to reduce the cost of supporting excessive topside weight on offshore platforms.
Also, process plant equipment requires insulation to maintain their structural integrity and protect them against fire. This equipment includes pipes and valves.
High Temperature Insulation Solutions For The Petrochemical Industry
To guarantee a correct, safe petrochemical processing cycle, pipes require internal conditions within set parameters. Insulation helps to ensure this.
The main aims of high temperature insulation in piping are:
The reduction of heat loss to save on costs
Protection against extremes in temperature, whether high or low
Reduction of carbon dioxide emissions
Prevention of condensation; and
A key form of high temperature insulation in petrochemical processing pipework is based on microporous technology, where micro-pores of dispersed silica enable effective heat transfer.
Another insulation product used in the petrochemical industry is mica. Mica is a lightweight material which combines natural mineral qualities with durability and adaptability.
One of its applications is the insulation of valves in petrochemical processing.
Combined with microporous materials, mica also offers very thin, engineered insulation systems.
The Future Of The PetrochemicalIndustry
Demand for petrochemicals is set to continue to grow, while the industry must respond to environmental issues by balancing strategy and performance.
An example of a long-term strategy, and challenge, for the petrochemical industry is to embrace a more circular economy. So, in practical terms, this will mean managing waste far more effectively.
In this, processing and processing materials will take on an even greater significance.
In the longer term, the industry will no longer be able to rely as heavily on the growing demand of emerging markets or feedstock – the supply of raw materials to fuel processes.
This is because awareness of environmental protection will drive change in these areas, and bring about more restrictive controls on petrochemicals.
Increased R&D in sustainable chemical production, combined with a reduced reliance on single-use plastics and improved waste management will all contribute to how the petrochemical industry evolves in the 21st century.
Specialising in High Temperature Insulation
As specialists in high temperature insulation for this sector, we aim to continue to contribute to innovation and improvements in petrochemical production and processing with specialist products designed for this purpose. We also have a prototyping capability for both problem-solving and production testing.
Reducing the UK’s carbon footprint is a business issue as much as a government one, as various industries depend on high temperature insulation for both their energy efficiency and profitability.
The UK Government is committed to reducing greenhouse gases to zero emissions by 2050. In fact, it is the first major economy to pass a zero-emissions law. It also has the concept of clean growth at the heart of its Industrial Strategy.
However, this then puts pressure on the industry to deliver the practical measures to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. One of the central aspects of achieving this will be high temperature industrial insulation.
Why is High Temperature Industrial Insulation Important?
The part high temperature industrial insulation plays in reducing our carbon footprint is a vital one, and it is all about cause and effect.
The key is energy efficiency. The more energy-efficient industries are the fewer emissions they cause, and the less energy they consume. High temperature insulation enables and supports this energy efficiency.
The more effective the insulation, the more energy-efficient the industrial processes or products. Consequently, it makes sense for businesses to invest in advanced high temperature insulation to, ultimately, reduce their carbon emissions.
An obvious sector where insulation is central is in construction. However, many other industries depend on it to optimise performance and processes, including the foundry and steel industry, automotive, aerospace, power electronics and manufacturers of consumer appliances.
Elmelin’s role is to support these industries with specialist products that are designed to improve high temperature insulation and maximise energy efficiency in various industrial processes.
While clearly industry is a major contributor of carbon emissions, how we live our daily lives also has a cumulative impact on the environment. This is why high temperature insulation in consumer appliances is critical in reducing our carbon footprint.
The more sophisticated and smart our consumer appliances get, the more energy efficient they will need to be. This is because their advanced electronics are both sensitive and heat-generating.
Within the manufacturing sector, mica provides high temperature insulation for a broad range of consumer appliances. These include hairdryers, toasters and microwaves.
Mica’s natural heat transfer properties and electrical resistance make it ideally suited for these types of product.
High Temperature Insulation for Electronics
As technology advances, electronic devices and systems are becoming more energy efficient, but this depends on them having effective high temperature insulation to ensure their optimum performance.
At the intuitive, user-end of the process, simplicity combines with low energy use, but to achieve this requires an enormous amount of complex development, including minimising the heat transfer of powerful electronic components to enable them to remain stable.
As a material for capacitors, resistors and other components, mica provides a superior level of insulation and long-term durability for electronics in manufacturing.
Meeting the Demands of the Automotive Industry
Where once it might have almost been taken for granted that vehicles would continue to be a major pollutant and source of emissions, now the emphasis is very much on reducing the collective carbon footprint of the automotive industry.
The demand is for more efficient, cleaner transport, with the rise of the electric vehicle (EV) at the forefront of new developments in this sector.
The challenge it continually strives to meet is for enhanced performance while reducing its environmental impact. Again, electronic components in vehicles have become increasingly sophisticated and sensitive to enable these kinds of improvements.
For these components to function effectively and safely, they require the right degree of high temperature insulation. Mica laminates and components contribute significantly to vehicle efficiency and safety.
The latest generation of low and zero emission vehicles requires carefully managed battery temperatures. This temperature regulation, through insulation, is what enables them to reduce their environmental impact while maximising their output.
In this context, high temperature insulation is not about directly reducing the carbon footprint of electric vehicles, but ensuring that as alternatives they are operationally effective, and therefore an increasingly attractive alternative to consumers.
High Temperature Insulation for Foundry Processes
In the foundry and steel industry, there is an inherent amount of heat and energy in the processes used to melt different metals. High temperature industrial insulation extends the life of furnace linings, making them more energy efficient.
This is down to mica’s superior slip plane characteristics, which also help increase furnace capacity, supporting best practices when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of this industry.
Extending the lifecycle of products and improving the efficiency of industrial processes will help reduce the carbon footprint of industry as a whole, and of end users of manufactured products.
Elmelin’s high temperature insulation solutions apply to a broad spectrum of industries, and include practical R&D support for new or refined and adapted products and processes.
Can we help you reduce your carbon footprint using high temperature industrial insulation? Call us on +44 20 8520 2248, or email email@example.com. You can also complete our enquiry form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
High temperature insulation in the foundry and steel industry is essential for preventing heat transfer during production of metal castings. Effective insulation also helps protect furnace linings, extending their lifespan and increasing their processing capacity.
What are the questions that drive business success? For many, innovation will the way that they can differentiate themselves and gain a competitive edge. To do this, they must be able to harness the potential of effective research and development, or R&D.
If you look at the end products and applications of mica, they can seem a long way from mica in its natural state. As a product, mica in sheet form is one of the most versatile, widely-used forms of processed mica, and here we answer how are mica sheets made?
Mica sheets come in different grades for a wide variety of applications. They can be either flexible or rigid, and can be composite or pure in composition.
High temperature insulation is not only about helping industries maintain efficiency, or ensuring electrical devices function consistently. It plays a key role in fire protection. Insulation for fire protection is something we specialise in, and our mica-based and microporous high temperature insulation products and technology cut across many industries, providing essential safeguarding against fire risks in various situations and settings.