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All about industrial thermal insulation

Thermal insulation protects installations from heat loss and/or heat absorption. It ensures that no energy is lost from industrial installations such as pipes and fittings in boiler rooms. Saving energy, also caring for the environment and CO2 reduction, is a topic that has been around for decades within the industry, but the energy crisis anno 2022 makes insulation more topical again than ever. Different materials exist for thermal insulation. In this article, we will further discuss the origins of thermal insulation, the reasons for insulation and what products are available for industrial thermal insulation.

The origins of industrial thermal insulation

Thermal insulation has been used since the late 18th century, not so much for energy conservation, but to protect personnel from being burned by hot parts. After WWII, new types of insulation materials such as stone wool came along, which were also widely produced. In 1973, industrial thermal insulation received a huge boost from the oil crisis. Due to the scarcity and high fuel prices, insulation in the (petro)chemical industry became additional and more widespread.

What is industrial thermal insulation?

Industrial thermal insulation is characterised by the variety of technical requirements placed on the materials. But also because of the wide temperature range from -200 to 1,200°C, combined with extreme environments where the insulation is applied, it differs from architectural insulation. Industrial insulation is the insulation of technical, mechanical installations and structures. Usually these are complex installations of a lot of piping combined with tanks, heat exchangers, distillation columns and vessels.

Applications for industrial insulation include:

  1. (Petro)chemical industry
  2. Energy producing industry
  3. Offshore
  4. Shipbuilding
  5. HVAC (Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning) installations

Why industrial thermal insulation?

The main reason for thermal insulation is to prevent unnecessary energy loss. An uninsulated piping system loses heat unnecessarily, leading to higher energy costs. In practice, pipes are often insulated, but fittings such as valves are not. Thermal insulation of these fittings not only saves energy, but due to high gas prices, the payback time is also very short. In the image below, a thermal image shows the difference between insulated fittings and fittings without insulation.

Industrial thermal insulation of fittings can be done easily and quickly with Temket insulation mattresses. These insulation mattresses are made of Temtex™ glass fabrics that are heat-resistant. Developed especially for utilities, this range of insulation mattresses can be installed without technical knowledge. The mattresses are a flexible solution for insulating fittings, valves and pumps and can be easily installed with the Velcro closure. The insulation mattresses come in universal versions, but can also be produced in any shape and size up to a temperature resistance of 1050°C.

Regulations on thermal insulation

Since 2019, the Netherlands has had an information duty around energy saving. Saving energy is important because everything we do not use does not need to be generated, imported or paid for. Companies and organisations, including EU ETS and mandatory permit companies, can make a substantial contribution to this by taking energy-saving measures from the Recognised Energy Efficiency Measures List (EML) with a payback period of 5 years or less. Examples include insulating non-insulated parts such as fittings or using LED lighting. Besides the information obligation, there is also a research obligation with an energy report. Part of this is an insulation scan. This involves an inventory of insulated pipes and fittings plus a specification of savings measures.

Subsidy opportunities for industrial thermal insulation

With the EML, the energy saving obligation can be met. Energy-saving measures ultimately lead to lower expenses, but this requires an investment first. Fortunately, there are several subsidy options such as the Energy Investment Allowance (EIA) for measures from the Energy List 2022, the Sustainable Energy Investment Subsidy (ISDE) for heat pumps, solar panels, etc. and the Accelerated Climate Investment (VEKI) for measures with a payback period of more than 5 years.

Choice of insulation type

Important terms in industrial insulation are reliability, availability and safety, but durability and energy saving have also become increasingly important in recent years. The reason for insulation determines the right type of insulation material and finishing material.

Some of the reasons are:

  • Thermal (cold or hot)
  • Safety (fire safety, health etc.)
  • Acoustic

Each insulation material has unique properties, which are important when choosing the type of insulation, e.g. its insulating capacity. This is also known as thermal resistance and is indicated by the Lambda value. Another important aspect is the degree of flammability. Most industrial plants are critical industrial processes where safety for people and the environment is the highest priority.

Conditions of use of thermal insulation

Every insulation material has processing instructions, which determine its final quality and long-term use. 2K pu foam should be processed between 23 and 27 °C. When processing under lower temperature conditions, the 2K PU foam insulation set will first have to be brought to this temperature with, for example, heat blankets. In addition, wearing necessary personal protective equipment such as a mouth mask is required in most cases when using e.g. Thermat glass fibre insulation blankets and Superwool insulation blankets.

Maintenance of insulated pipes

In due course, inspection and maintenance of the components of the insulated pipes and installations is needed. During maintenance, part or all of the insulation often needs to be removed. With the use of Temket’s insulation mattresses, this is not an issue. With the removable mattresses, you not only have good insulation, but by means of the Velcro closure, all important elements such as fittings and pumps also remain accessible at all times. This also makes them easy to clean and reusable.

Corrosion Under Insulation

In addition, for industrial plants equipped with thermal insulation, it is important and sometimes required by law to check them regularly for CUI (Corrosion Under Insulation). This hidden defect is often difficult to predict and where good insulation plays a major role. Good insulation means an insulation system that allows moisture that has penetrated in an undesirable way to escape. For instance, by means of a drain plug. For some inspections, it is more convenient to install an inspection plug instead of removing parts of the insulation.

Various coatings for thermal insulation are available that also protect against solvent attack in chemical-resistant finishes.

Specialist in insulation solutions

Temati has been a specialist in insulation solutions for 60 years and is happy to think with you for the most efficient insulation in your situation. Contact one of our specialists for advice or a quotation.

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