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Pinch Technology: Basics for Beginners

Nov 08 2010 01:30 PM | Mukesh Sahdev in Heat Transfer *****

Benefits and Applications for Pinch Technology

One of the main advantages of Pinch Technology over conventional design methods is the ability to set energy and capital cost targets for an individual process or for an entire production site ahead of design. Therefore, in advance of identifying any projects, we know the scope for energy savings and investment requirements.

General Process Improvements

In addition to energy conservation studies, Pinch Technology enables process engineers to achieve the following general process improvements:

Update or Modify Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs)

Pinch quantifies the savings available by changing the process itself. It shows where process changes reduce the overall energy target, not just local energy consumption.

Conduct Process Simulation Studies

Pinch replaces the old energy studies with information that can be easily updated using simulation. Such simulation studies can help avoid unnecessary capital costs by identifying energy savings with a smaller investment before the projects are implemented.

Set Practical Targets

By taking into account practical constraints (difficult fluids, layout, safety, etc.), theoretical targets are modified so that they can be realistically achieved. Comparing practical with theoretical targets quantifies opportunities "lost" by constraints - a vital insight for long-term development.


Pinch Analysis, when specifically applied to debottlenecking studies, can lead to the following benefits compared to a conventional revamp:

  • Reduction in capital costs
  • Decrease in specific energy demand giving a more competitive production facility

For example, debottlenecking of distillation columns by Column Targeting can be used to identify less expensive alternatives to column retraying or installation of a new column.

Determine Opportunities for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Generation

A well-designed CHP system significantly reduces power costs. Pinch shows the best type of CHP system that matches the inherent thermodynamic opportunities on the site. Unnecessary investments and operating costs can be avoided by sizing plants to supply energy that takes heat recovery into consideration. Heat recovery should be optimized by Pinch Analysis before specifying CHP systems.

Decide what to do with low-grade waste heat: Pinch shows, which waste heat streams, can be recovered and lends insight into the most effective means of recovery.

Industrial Applications

The application of Pinch Technology has resulted in significant improvements in the energy and capital efficiency of industrial facilities worldwide. It has been successfully applied in many different industries from petroleum and base chemicals to food and paper. Both continuous and batch processes have been successfully analyzed on an individual unit and site-wide basis. Pinch technology has been extensively used to capitalize on the mistakes of the past. It identifies the existence of built-in spare heat transfer areas and presents the designer with opportunities for cheap retrofits. In case of the design of new plants, Pinch Analysis has played a very important role and minimized capital costs.

A Case Study

When Pennzoil was adding a residual catalytic cracking (RCC) unit, the gas plant associated with the RCC and an alkylation unit at its Atlas Refining facility in Shreveport, energy efficiency was one of their major considerations in engineering the refinery expansion. Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Pennzoil's energy provider, SWEPCO, used pinch technology to carry out an optimization study of the new units and the utility systems that serve them rather than simply incorporating standard process packages provided by licensors. The pinch study identified opportunities for saving up to 23.7% of the process heating through improved heat integration. Net savings for Pennzoil were estimated at $13.7 million over 10 years.

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