Industrial steam-generating heat pump project launches in Vienna


Austria – NEFI, Takeda, the BMK, the Climate and Energy Fund, and AIT Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) unveiled the new NEFI project AHEAD (Advanced Heat Pump Demonstrator) in Vienna on January 25, 2023.

AHEAD, led by the AIT Center for Energy, is the first industrial steam-generating heat pump project. One of Takeda’s largest pharmaceutical production plants in Vienna uses natural refrigerants for natural gas-free steam generation to reduce CO2 by up to 90%. This technological demonstration project supports Austria’s leadership in high-temperature heat pump research and is designed to serve as a practical example for the pharmaceutical industry and other industrial businesses and sectors who aspire to make their processes CO2-free.

The steam-generating heat pump, which uses 100% natural refrigerants and steam compressors, is this project’s invention. AHEAD can reach 200-260°C. Takeda needs 184°C for steam.

Pharmaceutical production

AHEAD is pioneering a green steam supply solution for industrial processes. Natural gas has supplied most pharmaceutical process heat demand. AHEAD’s revolutionary heat pump mechanism eliminates this. A SPH Sustainable Process Heat GmbH steam-generating heat pump and steam compressors create 11 bar(a)/184°C steam. Pharmaceuticals employ heat pumps. At one of Takeda’s largest pharmaceutical production locations, 24 Lange Allee in Vienna, this reduces CO2 by up to 90% and eliminates CO2 emissions for almost seven months per year using solely natural refrigerants. This represents 1,900 tons of CO2 per year and is a major step toward Takeda’s global sustainability objective of operating its facilities with net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.

The research study will also propose deploying the AHEAD system at other Takeda facilities in Austria and globally. Austria is also investigating this technology’s decarbonization potential for energy-intensive industries including paper, chemical, and food.

Technical challenge

AHEAD will use another heat pump to generate steam from the hot water system’s heat. High temperatures may damage the compressor or chiller oil. Most conventional refrigerants cannot handle high temperatures. SPH Sustainable Process Heat GmbH’s reciprocating compressor heat pump can reach 165°C. This heat pump is being modified to use natural refrigerants to heat and evaporate heated water from 65 to 130°C. Pharmaceutical manufacture requires compressing this vapor to 11 bar, heating it to above 184°C.

AHEAD will launch in 2024 and be evaluated in 2025. “NEFI – New Energy for Industry” is part of the Austrian innovation offensive “Vorzeigeregion Energie” and financed by the Climate and Energy Fund.