By Elona Malterre
GLOBE-Net, June 22, 2012 - The industry that
turns otherwise wasted heat into electricity is poised to expand
due to technology advances and rising infrastructure costs for
centralized power, says an industry expert.
Technology to enable capture and transfer of waste heat has
improved, Joseph Kiss, vice-president and general manager of
Calgary-based Genalta Power Inc., said in a talk to the Sustainable
Industrial Development for the 21st Century (SID21C -
http://sid21c.com/) independent business-industry networking group
in May 2012.
At the same time, the costs for infrastructure such as
transmission lines are increasing in Alberta and elsewhere, Kiss
"We see a trend in energy costs and the cost of electrical power
being fairly steady. But with the proposed infrastructure spending
and capital investment that's required on the transmission side of
the business of the industry, there's going to be significantly
increased costs …"
Also, use of wind and solar energy is increasing. Kiss said that
he supports both wind and solar power, but he noted that their
intermittent nature requires that industry have a back-up that
provides base-load power. Utilizing waste heat and fuel for
power generation is an ideal "clean source" for base-load power, he
Waste heat-to-power has the potential to replace as much as 15
per cent of generating capacity in the U.S. where there are an
estimated 420 trillion BTUs of "industrial waste heat," he
About 50 per cent of the electricity generated in the U.S. is
from coal, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The
U.S. emits close to 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per
year from coal-fired power plants, or 27 per cent of the country's
total emissions, C2ES says.
About 45 per cent of Alberta's installed power-generation
capacity consists of coal-fired plants. Electricity/heat generation
accounted for 21 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the
province in 2010 - the same percentage as the oil sands, according
to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource
Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach, who recently joined
Genalta's board, calls the company "an Alberta success story."
"Meeting the growing demand for energy and maintaining our natural
environment are extremely important goals both here in Alberta and
internationally," he said.
"Developing innovative technologies that capture and convert
waste energy into electricity provides solutions and helps the
company's clients meet these goals. I look forward to contributing
my skills to this team," Stelmach said.
The world-wide potential for waste heat recovery is
enormous. "More than half of the energy consumed worldwide is
wasted, most of it in the form of excess heat," according to a news
story on Gizmag.com
Not all waste heat is economically viable to recover. However,
the Gizmag story says that research at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology indicates it might be possible to
harvest much of the wasted heat produced by everything from
computer processors to car engines and power plants, and convert it
into usable electricity.
Genalta is currently
involved in converting waste heat to power in the oil and gas
industry. The company plans to expand into other industries,
including the chemical, lumber and manufacturing sectors as well as
the cement manufacturing and other kiln-based industries that
generate a lot of waste heat. The firm has opened an office in
Ontario to establish links to that province's manufacturing
Kiss pointed out that in addition to recovering energy from
waste heat, energy also can be recovered from waste fuel and "waste
"Say you have a pump that's running in a facility that's dealing
with sweetening natural gas. Typically at the pump . . . we can
recover the wasted energy associated with throttling down the
pressure from high pressure to low pressure," he said.
Genalta does all the design, engineering, and construction, with
a 10- to 20-year power purchase agreement or operations agreement
with the client.
"In many cases we own 100 per cent of the facilities, with the
waste energy provider cooperating on the power participation
agreement. Or in some cases we joint venture with the waste energy
provider," Kiss said.
The company, which has significant investment from Enbridge
Inc., has grown to 23 employees from 10 in 2011 and plans to double
staff again in 2013.
Genalta currently is in the construction stage for facilities
producing a total of about six megawatts, with another 45 MW being
discussed for the engineering stage, and another 50 MW in the
bidding process for each stage, Kiss said.
The company does as much construction as possible offsite, which
makes for an efficient building process, he said. He pointed
to the new 3-MW Cadotte Waste Fuel to Power Project at
a Husky Energyheavy oil battery that flares between 750,000 to
one million cubic feet of natural gas per day. Genalta will turn
much of that waste gas into power for the local distribution grid,
while reducing flaring at the site by more than 80 per
All the facility's modules were preassembled, with the lease
developed over the same time frame, Kiss said. The facility
essentially was built over a couple of weeks in April 2012, he
said. "We still have to do electrical interconnection, but in
essence everything is there."
There are several challenges for the waste heat-to-energy
industry, including having to work with a complex regulatory
framework that requires a lot of expertise, Kiss said. Genalta has
hired an expert in the area who has been very successful in dealing
with the protocols, he said.
The industry also is a capital-expensive business with a long
payback that requires a 10- or 20-year term for power payments,
Kiss said. "We're utility . . . so there's a very high
upfront capital outlay for R&D."
There is also a long business development cycle, with often two
to three years between the initial contact with the fuel-providing
company and the final negotiations. Access to capital also
has been a challenge because Genalta owns and operates the
power-generating facilities, Kiss said.
Also, with the rapid growth of the company and the high activity
in the oil and gas industry in Alberta, Genalta has had to go as
far as Ontario to recruit staff.
Despite the challenges, Genalta has competitors in the space
such as Calgary-based NRGreen Power Limited Partnership, an
independent power producer related to Alliance Pipeline.
Under a 20-year power agreement with SaskPower, NRGreen
Power has built four, 5-MW waste heat power generation units in
Saskatchewan. NRGreen Power will be adding its fifth waste
heat recovery unit in western Canada, to be built at Alliance
Pipeline's Windfall compressor station near Whitecourt,
The Whitecourt Recovered Energy Project will
utilize General Electric's patented ORegan power system to
generate 14 MW of electricity, with no new emissions or water
The $64-million project is scheduled to be operational in the
third quarter of 2013.
This article was first published in enviroline and is reprinted here with the kind
permission of the author.