Why Electric Heating is the Future of Chemical Production

An electric heater sits atop two cylindrical tanks underneath a metallic structure.Like many industries, the chemical sector is shifting toward more sustainable chemical production methods. One of the most prominent ways they’re doing so is by using electrified heating methods. In other words, workers in the industry are beginning to use electric heating to produce these chemicals instead of traditional fossil fuel heaters. This post will examine how electric heating can support chemical production. 

How “Ohmic heating”  works

Ohmic heating is the scientific term for electric heating. It involves using electric currents to provide continuous heat at high temperatures in minimal processing times. There’s a passage of alternating electrical current (AC) into the target source, resulting in electrical resistance, which creates heat. 

The AC voltage gets applied to both ends of the target source. The heating rate is proportional to the square of the electric field’s strength and its conductivity. Ohmic heating isn’t a fixed form of heating.- Operators can adjust the field strength by adjusting elements, such as the amount of applied voltage. 

Benefits of electric heating for chemical manufacturing 

One of the key advantages of ohmic heating is its ability to heat chemical reactions faster than traditional methods. This is a boon for the chemical industry because some chemicals need to be heated rapidly to avoid undesirable reactions. 

Ohmic heating also distributes heat evenly through a substance and at a sustained, balanced temperature. This method of heating has demonstrated a power-to-heat ratio beyond 95 percent, making it one of most efficient and superior alternatives to fossil fuel heating. 

Additional benefits of ohmic heating for chemical manufacturing

  • Improved product quality due to shooter yield times (as a result of rapid heating)
  • Instantaneous and precise temperature control 
  • Elimination of thermal gradients and hotspots
  • Environmentally friendly and helps reduce carbon emissions associated with most chemical manufacturing
  • Easily scalable 

As concerns about carbon emissions and oil production rise, governments worldwide are pursuing alternatives to conventional chemical production. Current fossil-fuel methods are problematic, but electric heating has been deemed a viable option to deal with today’s and tomorrow’s challenges in the chemical industry. 

Chemicals applications electric heating can power

The potential applications for the chemical industry are endless. However, they’re not yet widespread. Some corporations have begun using electric heating methods more fervently in recent years, and with government mandates to reduce emissions, the trend will continue. There are some notable chemical applications where electric heating seems most feasible. 

Chemical applications for electrical heating

  • Ammonia synthesis
  • Methane conversion
  • Hydrogen production  
  • Petrochemicals
  • Food processing compounds

How electric heaters can facilitate chemical production 

Not all electric heaters can meet the requirements needed to heat chemicals. That’s why it’s essential to know which ones best suit the ohmic heating requirements of particular chemicals. As was mentioned above, efficient ohmic heating distributes heat evenly. 

The best electric heaters that distribute heat evenly are inline and immersion electric heaters. Inline heaters are ideal for processes where the target fluid is circulating. A benefit of inline heaters for these applications is that they help maintain stable temperatures and viscosities. 

Immersion heaters best suit chemical applications that involve tank heating. Typically, the heating elements in these units are customized to ensure that they distribute heat evenly. 

Depending on the vessel and the chemical in the vessel, it may be ideal to orient the heater in a specified position to ensure sufficient heating. For example, the immersion heater may have a horizontal orientation near the bottom of the tank. In other instances, the immersion heater may take the form of an over-the-side heater, mounted near the top of the tank and dipping into it (and the fluid). 

Ultimately, the best position depends on the chemical undergoing the heating process. Electric heaters offer some other distinct advantages over conventional fuel-burning heaters. 

Advantages of electric heaters over fossil-fuel heaters

  • Advanced temperature control: Electric heaters, like our Wattco electric heaters, come with temperature control panels. This enables operators to rapidly adjust the temperature of the chemicals they’re heating to precise measurements. 
  • Safety: Electric heaters are easier to control and allow rapid shut-offs if temperatures surpass safe thresholds. They’re also customizable in terms of wattage, voltage, control panels, and sheath materials, allowing operators to build virtually explosion-proof units. 
  • Simplicity: Fuel-burning heaters often have complex controls; electric heaters are the opposite. The straightforward design of these heaters makes them easy to control, and makes it less likely to use them incorrectly. Additionally, their simple configuration makes repairs less complicated. 

Wattco electric heaters and chemical manufacturing

Electric heating will become a staple method in the chemical manufacturing world in the near future. Government responses to carbon emission initiatives will likely lead to a reduction in fossil fuel heating. Whether you rely on electric heating now or plan to, it will likely become more essential to your process. With that said, switching to electrified heating methods will bring about advantages in terms of heating efficiency, safety, and ease of operation. 

Here at Wattco, we offer a range of industrial electric heaters that can facilitate chemical manufacturing needs. That includes inline and immersion heaters, which can be customized to safely and efficiently heat the chemicals you produce. 

Get a quote for your electric heater today. Our representatives will help you find the exact setup needed for your industrial needs.