Green energy, refrigerants and reshoring

We sometimes speak to startups and even established companies who are pleasantly surprised by what can get made in-country, if you know where to look.

While this website celebrates just about every company manufacturing in Australia, we acknowledge that production for a long list of things — as our current semiconductor series is detailing, or as in the case of large-scale forgings and solar panels — is limited or non-existent. 

According to Paul Keen, Managing Director and CEO of industrial thermal energy management business Green Thermal Energy Technologies (gTET), his is the only company in the nation designing and producing high-speed turbomachinery.

“The technology is effectively aerospace technology,” he tells @AuManufacturing

“Our turbines for example spin at 45,000 RPM and use a gas bearing. The bearing technology is quite common in aerospace but I’m not aware of anyone in Australia using them.”

As others are doing, gTET is trying to increase what it can make in-house. In late-2019 – just before the idea of reshoring supply chains was to become really appealing – the company began a project with RMIT University to bring some of its production back home.

The project, backed by a grant from the Innovative Manufacturing CRC, has developed a high-speed drive used in the turbo-compressor and other components used in a new high-temperature heat pump range (released in April.)

The heat pumps have good potential in industrial heat scenarios such as distilleries and diaries, says Keen, whose company designs and installs products for solid waste-to-energy, heat waste-to-energy, and heat waste-to-heat uses.

Its other major product range is organic rankine cycle (ORC) heat engines.

An article on Engineers Australia’s website from 2017 describes these as “basically the same as a normal Rankine power system (steam boiler/turbine), except that it uses an organic fluid such as a refrigerant like R245fa. This makes it a hybrid between an industrial refrigeration plant and a traditional power plant.”

In this episode of @AuManufacturing Conversations with Brent Balinski – recorded at the IMCRC’s Innovative Manufacturing Accelerated conference this month – Keen tells us about the founding of his company by ex-automotive industry engineers, and some of the benefits and challenges of adopting heat pump and biomass-based industrial heat solutions.

0:25 – Background to company. 

2:07 – Where are ORC generators and heat pumps used.

2:40 – Developing heat pumps for up to 150 degrees, aiming to replace low-pressure gas boilers.

3:10 – The IMCRC project, beginning late-2019.

5:24 – Slow adoption of heat pumps in Australia. 

7:10 – Biomass heat generation. 

9:04 – Personal definition of innovation.

Pictures: supplied

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