Dow Chemicals Heat Transfer Fluids Enables Solar Plant Electricity Production

The Dow Chemical Company Performance Fluids business is enabling three large solar power plants in Spain to collect heat and convert it to electrical energy. Taking advantage of the sunny climate, and favorable tax incentives, Spain is pioneering large, commercially viable solar power plants. 

Starting later this year, Dow will deliver over 2,000 metric tons of DOWTHERM™ A – a well known, specialized heat transfer fluid – to the Andasol I Solar Energy plant in Guadix, located in southern Spain, near Granada. A few months later, Dow will fill the Iberdrola Renovables plant located in Ciudad Real with nearly 1,000 metric tons of DOWTHERM™ A.  Later still, another 2,000 metric tons of the same heat transfer fluid will be delivered to Andasol II, also located near Guadix.

Each plant will supply 50 megawatts of electrical power for a total of 150 megawatts.  This is enough electricity for about 90,000 homes. Both of the Andasol plants will save approximately 450,000 tons of carbon dioxide that would have been released to the atmosphere had traditional fuels been burned.

Heat Transfer Fluid From Dow

The role of DOWTHERM™ A is to collect heat energy and transport it to a power generating station.  The transported heat converts water to steam which in turn drives turbines to make electricity.  DOWTHERM™ A is a mixture of special fluids that have the high temperature stability needed to collect, transport, and store heat.

DOWTHERM™ A is ideal for systems that use liquid or vapor phase heating.  Not only does Dow have the right chemistry for the application, but it also has the manufacturing and logistical capabilities few others have, that are needed for projects of this size.

Production and Delivery Challenges

Dow spent a great deal of time designing an effective manufacturing and supply chain capability to deliver the incredibly large amounts of heat transfer fluid needed for these solar plants.  “Each order is massive in its own right,” said Steven Stanley, Ph.D., global business director for Dow Performance Fluids.  “We have large manufacturing resources, logistical expertise and the transportation capabilities here at Dow. There are few companies globally that have the capability to do a specialized job of this size.”

Manufacturing Challenges

The manufacturing challenges for Dow to fulfill this order centered on creating a supply design to enable the production of large batches of DOWTHERM™ A.  To further complicate the process, huge amounts of raw materials are needed to enable manufacture.  Dow decided to use local suppliers of raw materials to shorten the manufacturing process.  Use of local supply had never been done before.

Delivery Challenges

All these tons of DOWTHERM™ A need to be delivered over the road in a short, two to four week period.  This is a challenge given how much fluid is needed.  In addition, the DOWTHERM™ A is heated and delivered at about 40 degrees C. To achieve these results, Dow invented a completely new supply chain procedure.

To do this, Dow:

  • Established supply capability in Spain for finished fluids.
  • Optimized fluid heating within the supply chain to meet customer delivery requirements.
  • Developed the capability to deliver heated DOWTHERM™ A on a continuous basis during the delivery period.

“This system of supply, manufacture, and delivery will enable us to continue to replicate these same results for years to come,” Stanley concluded.  “We can provide superior chemistry with great service at the lowest possible cost for our customers.”

Posted April 14th,2008

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