The company, working with City, University of London, discovered a way of harnessing ‘wet’ steam – a ubiquitous, yet frequently untapped, energy source. Together they created the steam expander, Heliex’s core technology which harnesses the energy from standard industrial steam to generate mechanical power.
Heliex’s first use of the expander was in the Heliex GenSet, launched in 2013, where it is used to drive a standard industrial generator, allowing businesses to produce electricity from the wet steam created in many of their processes. The company has now extended the use of the expander to drive a range of rotating equipment, such as pumps and blowers, with its Heliex SteamDrive. The expander is claimed to drive machinery more efficiently and cost effectively than an electrical motor.
The company’s second new technology, the Heliex AirComp, uses a Heliex steam expander system to drive high-efficiency compressors, providing air. This is said to be up to 18% more efficient than using an electrical motor, delivering savings of more than £80,000 per year for a standard 100kW machine. Compressed air is employed in a variety of industrial applications, such as the running of control systems, cooling equipment, and drive components.
Heliex’s third new technology, Heliex SteamComp, uses the original steam expander system in reverse. Allowing plant operators to re-energise steam which has already been through a process, instead of having to condense and evaporate it again – an energy-intensive process. The technology is already being deployed by a packaging manufacturer on its production lines and has potential applications in industries such as pulp and paper, tyres, food processing, and chemicals.
Chris Armitage, chief executive of Heliex Power, said: “Steam is often seen as a technology consigned to the Victorian era, but it still has huge potential and enormous benefits to offer modern industry and society.
“AirComp, SteamDrive, and SteamComp will open up new opportunities for us – compressed air, for example, is even more plentiful on industrial sites than steam, making the potential market very large for that system alone.”
Heliex expects to see strong appetite from the industrial sector, both in the UK and further afield, in a wide variety of potential applications.