Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux: a company that turns heat into electricity

Startup Hevatech is developing a unique process that allows waste heat to be converted into electricity.

Turn waste heat from an industrial facility into electricity. This is the principle behind the Turbosol innovation developed by start-up Hevatech, now based in the Bois des Lots area of ​​Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. It was in 2010 in Malataverne that the Hevatech adventure began. This then depends on heat storage. But a few years ago, the company made a “strategic pivot”, as explained by Patrick Bouchard, president of Hevatech who joined the company in 2016: “At that time, there was no interesting business model for heat storage. So we decided to work on converting waste heat into electricity. Thus was born Turbosol after several years of research and development. And at a time when the price of electricity for companies is skyrocketing and when they are looking to make the most of everything that can be, this unique concept in the world has everything to know a radiant future.

Fatal heat, an untapped source of energy

To fully understand the interest of the technology developed by the startup Drôme, it is already necessary to be interested in the principle of fatal heat. It is all the heat that is produced by an industrial process and that is rejected without recovery. A fatal heat that can be found in all industries that need to burn something, waste incinerators, cement manufacturers, potters, glass factories, foundries or even large engines that run continuously, such as generators . In a national study, Ademe (Environment and Energy Management Agency) estimates that for smoke emissions above 100°, 53 TWh are lost per year. To better understand the importance of this number, the Tricastin power plant produced 23.79TWh of electricity in 2021. And Patrick Bouchard to make other comparisons: “Corresponds to the production of two EPR units, that is, 1700 state-of-the-art 5 MW wind turbines . 🇧🇷

It is, therefore, a huge deposit that currently has every interest in being developed by industrial companies. This is where Hevatech’s Turbosol process comes in. It is intended for industries whose discharges are greater than 300°. It is based on a first conversion of thermal energy into kinetic energy. In concrete terms, two fluids will be heated separately thanks to this hitherto unused heat. On one side the oil that will return in the form of hot oil and on the other side the water that will return in the form of steam. The hot oil will be broken down into micro-droplets that will mix with the steam. This steam will then be expanded causing an acceleration of the steam and oil microdroplets.

Wasted heat that turns into free electricity…

At the exit, a two-phase jet is obtained at a speed of 200 m/sec. This will activate a self-acting turbine connected to a generator that will produce electricity. Electricity that can be used for self-consumption by the customer. From wasted heat, you get free electricity… At a time when manufacturers are launching electricity bills multiplied by 2, 3 or more, the process takes on all its meaning and the return on investment for the customer is very accelerated.

Then, the process separates the oil from the water, condenses the water vapor and starts a new cycle. A closed circuit which therefore requires little maintenance and the process has other advantages. Thus, the action turbine, which is based on the same process as the dam hydraulic turbines, will rotate at low speed, around 1,500 rpm. A simpler system than a steam turbine. The process uses vegetable oil and water, it does not require hazardous products. As a result, the Turbosol concept does not require any classified installation permits, which greatly facilitates its installation. But the Drôme technology, protected by numerous patents in France and abroad, still has an ace up its sleeve. Because during the cooling phase of the water vapor, in order for it to return from the vapor state to the liquid state, residual heat is produced again. A heat that reaches around 85° and that can be valued again. “From there we can produce domestic hot water, supply a heating network, heat a building… But we can also produce cold. Therefore, we have a cogeneration system with electricity production on one side and heat or cold production on the other”, explains Patrick Bouchard.

20 to 30 hires in the coming years

Today, Hevatech has about ten employees, but starting in 2023 and depending on the commercialization of the Turbosol solution, Patrick Bouchard plans to “quickly move up to 30 or 40 employees. “A phase, transition from a start-up focused on research and development, to a company that produces and commercializes what is for the president of Hevatech “the most interesting period. We started with an idea and managed to create jobs in a territory. 🇧🇷

Raising 4 million euros

In order to make this transition successful, which is never easy for companies, in November the company managed to raise attractive funds worth 4 million euros from the Banque des Territoires, on behalf of the State, within the framework of France 2030, and Eren Groupe, accompanied by two historical investors of the company. These funds will allow Hevatech to accelerate its development and commercial deployment of Turbosol.

A great adventure that also benefits some partners located nearby, as Hevatech, which assembles Turbosol at its facilities in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, has the vast majority of parts manufactured in companies in the Rhône valley.

2023 should now allow Hevatech to take off to turn this Maltaverne-born adventure into a success story.

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