Technology against energy waste and pollution in the industry

Spanish industry is not exemplary. It consumes 25% of all the energy demanded by the country, uses more than the European average for the same production process and uses sources that, at 57%, are generated from oil and gas, according to Eurostat data. Faced with this reality, some companies and researchers, such as engineer Rubén Mocholí Montañés (Valencia, 1990), awarded by the German Ministry of Education and Research during this year's Green Talents Awards, are working to reverse the process.

Mocholí, now residing in Gothenburg, Sweden and planning to return soon to Norway, has been in Scandinavia for seven years researching how to reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by the industry. It uses mathematical systems that optimize processes and strategies in order to reduce energy consumption and emissions by up to 90% in some cases.

The energy sector generates 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And that is where Mocholí's research, which develops twin digital models ( twin digital technology) has been directed: "My research focuses on the development of technology for the reduction of CO2 emissions and on the operation energy-intensive industrial processes so that they can operate in harmony with the variable generation of renewable energies. I currently work on projects in the thermal power plants industry for cogeneration of heat and electricity and in the primary steel production sector". In short, it collects and analyzes all the data of a plant to develop a virtual model with which to improve the behavior of all processes without having to change them or with which to "develop technology that does not exist".

In this way, he explains, energy consumption can be reduced, the use of renewable sources improved, CO2 reduced and used to generate energy, as has been demonstrated in the reuse of blast furnace emissions from steelmaking or in the Torero's European project, whose name has nothing to do with bullfighting but is the English acronym for Torrefying wood with ethanol as a renewable output. "The goal is to use 120,000 tons of wood waste annually to produce eight million litres of ethanol and make it profitable, because otherwise the industry won't want to implant it," he summarizes

. Ruben Mocholí Montañés.

The Spanish engineer summarizes the three most immediate strategies in the face of industrial energy waste and emissions. "Use less energy, store CO2 and reuse it". His mathematical models to achieve this have earned him one of the Green Talents awards given by the German Government, to which 837 applicants and of which 25 of 21 countries have been elected

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"Nice stay"

Mocholí is not alone. Some industries have launched the race to reduce consumption and emissions. Many of them (620 companies) meet this month during the MetalMadrid industrial innovation fair, which takes place from 27 to 28 November, "A few years ago, talking about this topic was somewhat abstract and distant. Today it is an urgent need and the new technologies associated with Industry 4.0 will be key in the change of productive model towards a system that promotes energy savings and efficiency. In Spanish industry there is still much to do to move from a model based on high consumption and dependence on resources to one that allows to reduce the amount of energy needed to produce goods and services", explains Oscar Barranco, director of the meeting .

Barranco states that investment in the optimization of industrial systems translates into medium and long-term savings in all cases, although depending on the type of production, the results may vary. It explains that it is about implementing sensors to measure processes, introduce automated systems or design models to economize processes.

A shipyard worker, during a welding process Juan Carlos Toro

Madrid will host the presentation of some examples. Fuchs, one of the leading industrial grease companies, offers "lubricant-speaking sensors." It is a small plant that provides permanent information on the condition of this product (density, temperature, level) to correct any parameter that limits the optimal operation of the machinery.

Other examples are simpler and come from innovation in materials by replacing metals with polymers and fibers. In this sense, Ziur has a fuel tank with 40% less weight than the current ones. The benefit is evident by reducing the load, but it has also been shortened the online assembly time by 70%.

The incorporation of laser technology into metal folding and cutting processes, such as those incorporated by the Trumpf firm, also allows for greater saving not only energy but also of waste and emissions. These are technologies that already apply in the shipbuilding industry,

Like the twin models proposed by Rubén Mocholí, but on a smaller scale, augmented reality has settled in engineering or industrial processes. With this system of virtual twins you can generate welding or machining models, for example, without physically performing the process on a test element or checking the behavior of a new process without developing the prototype.