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Making sustainable urban life a reality in China

Categories: innovation

Imagine having the ability to reuse exhaust heat from a power plant and transport that heat more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) away to supply central heating for more than two million residents. This scenario is a reality today because of state-of-the-art, water-blown pipe insulation developed by Huntsman.

Polyurethane pipe insulation produced by Huntsman is helping to heat the homes of more than two million residents in Taiyuan, China, as part of a huge urban district central heating (DCH) system. The solution helps address the challenge of heating private and public buildings in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way.

DCH systems use centralized power plants to create heat by burning fossil fuels or biomass materials. This heat is then used to create steam, or more commonly, hot water, which is subsequently circulated to residential and commercial buildings via a network of underground pipes.

DCH systems are a smart means of generating heat, en masse, for people living and working in densely populated areas. Producing heat centrally, at one location, for multiple users, is energy efficient and provides a simple way to control and cut carbon emissions. It also helps reduce fuel costs for consumers.

Recognizing that its knowledge of water-blown insulation systems could help the DCH industry, Huntsman set up a project team in China in 2012 to study the opportunity. The team created an insulation system that works with current spray appliance systems, conforms to fire-retardant regulations and is suitable for use alongside large-scale DCH pipes, which can be up to 4.6 feet (1.4 meters) in diameter. From a specially created DCH test lab, the team simulated and recorded spray applications and tested prototype insulation systems in subzero temperatures, ultimately creating a product that passed stringent DCH standards.

Today, Huntsman’s water-blown DCH insulation systems are proving incredibly popular across China. In 2015, Huntsman won the tender for the Taiyuan DCH project — China’s first long-distance district heating project and the country’s largest of its kind. Backed by local government, the Taiyuan DCH project is made up of more than 23 miles (38 kilometers) of pipework and supplies heating to people across a 30-square-mile (80-square-kilometer) area.

The waste heat from the Shanxi Gujiao Power Plant, the largest in North China, can supply heat for two million residents in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province — half of the total population of the area in the winter.

In 2016, China accounted for more than 10 percent of the global share in the DCH market, a number that is set to grow as the Chinese government looks to deliver on its sustainability agenda and actively explores cleaner heating projects.

With the United Nations predicting that 66 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, district central heating offers an innovative approach for governments looking to cut carbon emissions, improve air quality and reduce energy demands.

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