ORLEN invests to increase energy efficiency of its Czech refinery

ORLEN Unipetrol, the ORLEN Group’s Czech subsidiary, is in the process of constructing a heat recovery unit at its production plant in Kralupy on the Vltava River. The aim of the project is to increase the energy efficiency of Kralupy refinery by flue gas waste heat utilization, which were previously released into the atmosphere. By using the recovery unit will be flue gas heat used for heating of turbine condensate and producing of boiler feed water using in various plant processes. Implementation of the recovery unit will lead to significant energy savings of 5 MW of the thermal energy per hour. Over the course of a year, the installation will enable the recovery of as much heat as would be sufficient to heat nearly 10,000 households. The innovative solution used in this project comes from idea of employee from ORLEN Unipetrol’s development department and have been developed by engineers from ORLEN Unipetrol. The project, valued at approximately CZK 0.5 billion (around PLN 100 million), aligns with the ORLEN Group’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

“The ORLEN Group, as a trailblazer in the energy transition across Central Europe, is taking tangible measures to mitigate the environmental impact of its operations. The heat recovery unit being constructed at our refinery in Kralupy, the Czech Republic, represents a significant step in increasing of the plant’s energy efficiency, which will not only have positive environmental impact, but will also  lead to operational costs reduction. The project is based on a cutting-edge polymer heat exchanger technology and the solution was engineered by ORLEN Unipetrol. In the years ahead, our commitment to research and development in green technologies will be a key driver of the ORLEN Group’s evolution, contributing to the achievement of our strategic goals and aspirations,” says Daniel Obajtek, CEO and President of the ORLEN Management Board.

The investment at the Kralupy refinery includes the installation of a system that will recover the heat from flue gases generated during the burning processes in furnaces at Block 25, where the basic distillation of crude oil and other related processes are carried out. ORLEN Unipetrol will use this captured energy to reheat boiler feed water, essential for production of the driving steam for the main machines at the Fluid Catalytic Cracking unit in Kralupy refinery.

“Increasing energy efficiency is one of the pillars of ORLEN Unipetrol’s strategy and necessary step on the road to the ORLEN Group’s carbon neutrality in 2050. By 2030, we plan to spend CZK 30 billion (equivalent to about PLN 5.3 billion) on projects that will help us reduce GHG emissions and increase the efficient use of energy in our operations. Investing in the reuse of heat from combustion products is among the company’s crucial strategic initiatives,” says Maciej Romanów, Member of the ORLEN Unipetrol Management Board.

Boiler feed water requires to have a unique physicochemical properties that make it suitable for energy applications. Currently, all boiler feed water utilised at ORLEN Unipetrol’s plant in Kralupy is sourced from the municipal gas-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. The process of its production involves heating the water to a high temperature, facilitating efficient generation of steam, which already takes place within the refinery. In the final step of using, the steam is condensing. The resulting condensate is returned by Unipetrol to the CHP plant for chemical and physical treatment and reheating. The imminent start-up of the heat recovery unit represents a milestone for ORLEN Unipetrol, enabling the company to heat a portion of the condensate and produce the technologically important water for steam production in house using the recovered heat from the flue gas. Thanks to approximately 5 MW of thermal energy contained in the flue gas, the system will enable the heating of around 330,000 cubic metres of water per hour to 170 degrees Celsius. Consequently, the Kralupy refinery will achieve the capability to produce approximately one-third of its required boiler feed water independently, without resorting to additional fossil fuel combustion. This will translate into a potential reduction of CO2 emissions in the entire boiler feed water production process by 15,000 tonnes annually.

The innovative heat recovery system being constructed in Kralupy is based on a pioneering solution developed by engineers from the Czech company of the ORLEN Group. The key point is using of special polymer heat exchangers resistant to acids formed by cooling down of flue gas. This design enable the cooling of gasbelow the temperature at which acids condense and recover of additional heat from the flue gas in comparison by using the common metal heat exchangers. the traditional metal exchangers necessitate maintening of higher gas temperatures to avoid the corrosion caused by acids. The accompanying effect of flue gas waste heat recovery will be its releasing into the atmosphere with a lower temperature.

ORLEN Unipetrol, the leading player in the Czech Republic’s refining and petrochemical sector, has operated as part of the ORLEN Group since 2005. Specialising in crude oil processing and the production, distribution, and sale of automotive fuels, petrochemical products, mainly plastics, and fertilizers, ORLEN Unipetrol holds a prominent position in the Czech Republic and the broader Central European market in all these areas of its business. The Czech group’s assets encompass refineries and production plants in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, Paramo in Pardubice, Spolana in Neratovice, REMAQ in Otrokovice, and two research facilities in Litvínov and Brno. Additionally, ORLEN Unipetrol owns the ORLEN fuel station network in the Czech Republic, and the ORLEN network in Slovakia and Hungary. In terms of revenues ORLEN Unipetrol ranks among the largest enterprises in the Czech Republic, employing a workforce of nearly 6,000. ORLEN Unipetrol is also committed to social responsibility, particularly in supporting sustainable development, education, local communities, and environmental initiatives.