Climeon’s modular system converts low temperature waste heat and geothermal heat to electricity, addressing an unexplored market. Ultimately, the company aims to replace fossil fuel based electricity production entirely.

”Climeon aims to become the world’s number one climate solver”, says Thomas Öström, CEO. ”We know that from today and until 2040, we need to increase the energy production with about 30 percent. That’s like adding another China and India into this mix. It is difficult to grasp”.

Half of the world’s energy production is eventually lost as waste heat. The Climeon Heat Power system can recover clean energy from various low-temperature heat sources. Illustration: Climeon.

Climeon’s Heat Power module can be described as a cube 2 meters in side, which converts the energy in hot water to electricity with a patented vacuum-based process. Each module has the capacity to generate 1 314 000 kWh of clean electricity every year, and they can be combined, allowing the system to scale with demand and availability.

”Every unit supplies enough electricity for about 250 normal-sized villas. They are packed with innovation in order to reach the extreme efficiency we have. They are mass produced and enables the customers to customize the power plant according to the energy source. We are very happy with the product”, Öström says.

Potentially disruptive energy technology

Compact, fundamentally cheap, with unique efficiency; according to Öström, this is an energy technology poised to be disruptive. And he is not the only one with confidence in the solution: the Swedish Energy Agency has called it “the greatest energy innovation in a hundred years”. When WWF chose the company as one of their Climate Solvers in 2016, they estimated that the technology could save over 21.6 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, with a ten percent market share in the maritime and industrial waste heat segments. On one single ship, the Climeon system can save 7 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, or five percent of the fuel consumption.

”Everybody knows about wind and solar. Heat power is not as well known – but it is trending very, very fast”, Thomas Öström explains. ”The first source is waste heat power, either from industrial processes, like we do on SSAB, or from transportation like on the maritime market with Viking Line, Virgin Voyages and lately also Maersk. It’s here and now. The other one, geothermal, is the  best power source of the future; the only thing that is stopping us from harvesting it is technology. And this is exactly what we bring. In the last months we’ve got orders in geothermal energy from Iceland, Germany, Canada and the US.”

A giant resource waiting to be tapped

About half of all the energy we produce is lost as waste heat. Waste heat recovery, from power plants, industrial processes or generators, could be a giant market; nevertheless, the low temperature waste heat that Climeon can use to produce electricity, 70 to 120 °C, is a relatively untapped resource today.

Heat power is usually recovered with the organic rankine cycle, ORC, where an organic working fluid is circulated against the heat source in a heat exchanger until it vaporises. The gas powers a turbine, and electricity is produced by a generator. The crux is that ORC usually only works well in the 120 to 300 °C temperature range.

In Climeon’s process, the working fluid is kept at a lower pressure than in traditional ORC systems – 2.5 bar instead of more than 10. This allows the company to both save material and employ a more efficient working fluid. They evaluated more than 3 600 fluids before they made their choice – but now, the Heat Power system can achieve ten percent efficiency in normal operating conditions, twice as much as a regular ORC system operating at the same temperature and more than half the theoretical maximum.

”In the maritime segment, we take the cooling water from these huge gensets and turn it into electricity instead of just dumping it into the Baltic Sea. Of all the industry segments, we have chosen a few: steel and cement. Chosen customers in chosen countries. The third segment is gensets, large generators and engines, that also exist in power plants. Just like on ships you have a cooling loop that cools the engine, at temperatures 80-100 °C”, says Christoffer Andersson, COO at Climeon. ”All these are within waste heat. Geothermal energy is something different. We enable geothermal energy in the temperatures range of 70-120 °C.”

A reliable substitute for fossil fuels

”Geothermal heat can be found today, and there are several players in the market making money. But that is on the high temperatures that can only be found in some areas in the world. But what we offer can generate geothermal energy everywhere on the planet. It’s cheap, and it’s baseload power”, says Thomas Öström, emphasizing the consequence: ”Fossil fuel is no longer needed.”

The Climeon module installed on Viking Grace. In the box, residual heat from the ship vaporises a circulating liquid that drives a turbine. Thanks to the vacuum pressure on one side of the turbine, efficiency is high. Photo: Climeon.

Both the technology and its commercial viability is established. Viking Line was among the first customers, with a pilot installation on the vessel Viking Grace in 2015. SSAB followed suit. The pilot facilities has been operational successfully for several years, and both customers have made repeated orders; Viking Line is looking to equip all their new ships with the system.

But it was in the last year things really took off. Virgin Voyages/Fincantieri made an order for three systems with 18 units for their cruise vessels; Maersk Line will be the first customer in the larger freight segment to make a pilot installation, planned for delivery in 2018; and in August 2017, the first geothermal order arrived from Icelandic Varmaorka. In June 2018, the order was increased to 197 units.

”We set off in early 2017 with proven technology and a feeling of competitiveness”, Thomas Öström says. ”Sales were focused on maritime and industrial waste heat recovery, while geothermal remained an exciting vision for the future. But in summer and fall, everything happened in quick succession.”

The units are manufactured by Mastec, an industrial group from county Småland in southern Sweden, and with orders piling up, it is a fair assumption they will be busy for a while. But in spite of Climeon’s expansive agenda – to challenge the fossil economy and seize control over one of the most important and least used energy resources we have – the company pledges to remain Swedish as long as possible:

”Building an industrial company in Sweden is a lot of fun!”

The article was published in June 2018.