Over the past 20 years, pinch analysis has evolved and its techniques perfected. It provides tools that allow us to investigate the energy flows within a process, and to identify the most economical ways of maximizing heat recovery and of minimizing the demand for external utilities (e.g., steam and cooling water). The approach may be used to identify energy-saving projects within a process or utility systems.
The ideal time to apply pinch analysis is during the planning of process modifications that will require major investments, and before the finalization of process design. Maximum improvements in energy efficiency, along with reduced investments can be obtained in a new plant design, since many plant-layout and –process constraints can be overcome by redesign.
However, in retrofit projects, energy efficiency improvements usually require some capital expenditure. In this case, pinch analysis can be specifically aimed at maximizing the return on investment. Pinch analysis techniques allow us to evaluate combinations of project ideas simultaneously, in order to avoid “double-counting” savings, as well as conflicting projects. Indeed, the final investment strategy for the available opportunities will ensure that site development is consistent and synergistic.
We perform this type of analysis mostly for process integration in production.