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Heat recovery from compressor plants: GKN recycles energy and protects the environment

Heat recovery from compressor plants: GKN recycles energy and protects the environment

Matthias Voss, Managing Director of GKN Sinter Metals Bonn; Jürgen Jung, Manufacturing Engineering

330 million precision components made of metal powder leave the GKN Sinter Metals production plant in Bonn every year. They are mainly used in the car industry, built into shock-absorbers, seat adjustments and steering columns, amongst other things. Today the company, which was formed in 1934, has around 600 employees, making it one of the largest employers in Bonn. GKN Bonn is constantly working on new projects to make its production process more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient. Five years ago the plant developed an intelligent heat recovery concept to harness the potential of its own waste heat. Employees have now amassed sufficient experience to be able to review its performance. And this has proved more than positive!

To manufacture precision components from metal powder, the powder is first pressed in moulds and then solidified in sintering furnaces under an inert gas atmosphere. GKN in Bonn has six compressors which produce the compressed air required, and a further compressor for the plants’ own nitrogen extraction. During this process, 93% of the required energy is converted to heat. Since 2010, the heat produced in this way has been recovered and used for heating purposes. Around 13,000 m² of production and office space is today heated by this means.

The aim of heat recovery is to minimise the demand for primary energy. The plant is self-sufficient in heating, using solely heat recovery technology down to an outside temperature of zero degrees Celsius. Only when temperatures drop below zero does external energy (gas) have to be used. “This enables us to save 1.9 million KWh of natural gas every year,” says Jürgen Jung, Manufacturing Engineering Manager, and the man responsible for this project. “This saving translates into heating for 120 family homes for a year. We only had to invest in a supply and return pipe, and one pump.” Due to its success, the same concept has now also been installed at the Radevormwald site in Germany as part of a transfer of know-how.

This is how it works: The compressors are cooled with water, which then heats up. This hot water then flows into a stratified heat storage tank, and from there into the radiators. Heat is given off by the radiators in the workshops and rooms, and the cooled water flows back into the storage tank. This creates a circuit which saves energy and benefits the environment.

“With this and other energy management measures, we have been able to increase our energy efficiency by 25% over the past 5 years,” says Matthias Voss, Managing Director of GKN Sinter Metals in Bonn. We intend to grow sustainably, and this includes optimising our production process continuously in terms of environmental protection.

About GKN Sinter Metals
GKN Sinter Metals is the world’s largest producer of precision powder metal products. With a focus on superior delivery, quality and total solutions, the company offers extensive technical expertise in design, testing and various process technologies. GKN Sinter Metals offers a full range of complex shapes and high strength products for automotive, industrial and consumer markets worldwide. The company’s global footprint spans more than 13 countries across five continents. GKN Sinter Metals is in close proximity to its customers with more than 30 global locations and more than 6,000 employees.

About GKN plc
GKN plc is a global engineering group. It has four divisions; GKN Aerospace, GKN Driveline, GKN Powder Metallurgy and GKN Land Systems, which operate in the aerospace, automotive and land systems markets. Over 55,000 people work in GKN companies and joint ventures in more than 30 countries. GKN is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: GKN) and recorded sales of GBP 7.5 billion in the year to 31 December 2014.

GKN Sinter Metals Components GmbH
Susanne Hütter
Pennefeldsweg 11-15
53177 Bonn

GKN Sinter Metals
Susanne Hütter
Am Fliegerhorst 9
99947 Bad Langensalza

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