New Industrial Drying System Promises to Save Water and Reduce Energy Use by 65 Percent

New Industrial Drying System Promises to Save Water and Reduce Energy Use by 65 Percent

SoCalGas and the Gas Technology Institute have demonstrated an innovative drying technology that saves money and reduces emissions.

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and Gas Technology Institute (GTI) a nnounced they have successfully demonstrated a new industrial drying technology that uses far less energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves money. The new technology can be used for drying or heat processing across a broad spectrum of industrial, agricultural and commercial applications—including drying livestock feed, textiles and pharmaceutical ingredients.

Compared to existing industrial dryers, the new technology uses 61 to 65 percent less natural gas, at least 40 percent less electricity, and recovers a substantial amount of water, all while drying up to eleven tons of wet material per hour. Utilization Technology Development (UTD) co-sponsored the project along with SoCalGas, and project funding for developing this innovative process was awarded by the C alifornia Energy Commission.

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Representative image source: PIxabay, labeled fr reuse

"SoCalGas is pleased to support the development of this natural gas drying system, which produces very low emissions and offers significant energy savings," said Yuri Freedman, senior director of business development at SoCalGas. "This is yet another example of quickly evolving natural gas technology that benefits many industries and businesses while positively impacting the environment."

The new technology was demonstrated at Martin Feed LLC, an industrial food processing site based in Corona, California. The site collects waste bakery material, such as dough, crackers and pastries, then dries and processes it to sell to dairy farms for feed.  Prior to implementing this new natural gas drying system, processing the bakery waste was an extensive and time-consuming process of sun drying that was affected by climate conditions such as wind and rain especially during the fall and winter months.

This new technology uses natural gas to generate a vacuum and captures excess heat from the process to preheat the incoming material being dried. The combination of the heat and vacuum results in faster, more efficient drying. The material is loaded into a feeding hopper and supplied into the drying chamber where controlled heat is applied to the continuously moving product while a vacuum draws out the moisture, allowing the product to be dried to specified moisture requirements in a shorter time. The product can be dried over a wide range of temperatures and production rates providing reliable operation, better product quality, and improved energy efficiency. Once the product is dried, it exits the system and is stored in a loading area.  

SoCalGas has been a leader in the research and development of new technologies that increase energy efficiency, reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps bills affordable for customers. Between 2014 and 2018, SoCalGas energy efficiency programs delivered more than 180 million therms in energy savings, enough natural gas usage for 403,000 households a year, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 955,000 metric tons, the equivalent of removing more than 202,000 cars from the road annually. These advances have also helped save SoCalGas customers more than $198 million in utility bill costs. In 2018 alone, SoCalGas' energy efficiency programs saved customers $57 million.

"This new drying system has been a gamechanger for our processing site. Not only does it save us copious amounts of time and money, but it's better for the environment. We are very pleased with this new technology," said Brian Hopkins, general Manager at Martin Feed, LLC.

"The Energy Commission works with researchers throughout the state and is proud to invest in innovative technologies to reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollutants while cutting energy use and costs," said Michael Lozano, CEC senior mechanical engineer.

"This emerging gas-fired thermo-vacuum drying technology offers significant energy and water savings across the industrial sector and has the potential to impact a lot of drying positively, and perhaps one day, can be replicated for commercial use as well," said Yaroslav Chudnovsky of GTI and principal investigator of the project.

Source: SoCalGas