District energy heads to Asia

Date: 26 January 2015

By Steve Hodgson, Contributing Editor, COSPP:

Media attention has been focused recently on efforts by Danfoss, working with consultant COWI, to export modern district energy technology to China. The latest story is of a project in which the two Danish entities are collaborating on a giant new district heating system for the northern city of Anshan, the iron and steel capital of China, which would both improve comfort conditions for the city’s apartment dwellers and reduce carbon and particle emissions to the atmosphere.

The scheme will use ‘waste’ heat from AnGang Steel as the city’s primary energy source.

But I see an increasing number of stories of western know-how being applied to district energy projects in Asia. Earlier this month, Siemens Energy and its local partner, Korea’s POSCO Engineering and Construction, completed the 830 MWe Ansan CHP scheme, which provides district heating to the inhabitants of the city of Ansan as well as power to the grid. The LNG-fuelled plant has an electricity generating efficiency of over 60%, says Siemens, rising to over 75% when the heat production is taken into account.

Third, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing a loan to the municipal company in the city of Kyzlorda, Kazakhstan to upgrade the existing district heating scheme there, including the provision of new gas turbines and the introduction of individual heating stations with sub-metering technology to improve energy efficiency. The EBRD sometimes steps outside its European borders with this kind of project, although its main district heating effort is concentrated into numerous projects in Eastern Europe.

Last, Switzerland’s ABB is working on an innovative new heat pump-based district heating system to serve residents of the mountain city of Shangri-La, also in China, where winter temperatures reach as low as -27°C. The new system will replace individual coal and wood-burning stoves and be powered with electricity from local hydro-electric schemes.

The traditional strongholds for district heating have been cities of North America and Central and Eastern Europe, so it’s pleasing to see moves towards the Orient. But district heating is not the only game in Asia; district cooling can be more applicable where the climate demands. Hong Kong is one example, where the government is developing its first-ever system for the air-conditioned commercial buildings being built at the old Kai Tak airport redevelopment site.

Much of the growth of district cooling to date has taken place in the Middle East. However, future growth is expected to be in emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region, where China and India in particular are developing numerous large-scale commercial and residential projects which can be suitable for the technology.

Indeed, according to one recent forecast, the Middle East and Asia will dominate the global district cooling market, capturing more than 40% of the overall district cooling demand by 2019.

City authorities in Europe and the US have long understood the consumer cost and environmental benefits that a district energy network makes possible. Traditionally supplied by coal-fired CHP stations, gas and municipal wastes are more modern fuels, with renewable fuels now beginning to find their way into district energy systems as well. It seems that some Asian city authorities are also beginning to wake up to the possibilities