11th Jan 2022

4 ways filtration enables sustainable energy production

At this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), making clean technologies and sustainable solutions affordable and accessible was high on the agenda. 42 countries pledged their support to make this happen for every emitting sector before 2030.

The goals are undoubtedly ambitious, covering everything from energy efficiency, coal and fossil fuel transition, utility-scale renewables, and integrated energy planning.

The filtration industry has a huge opportunity to positively impact the goals laid out at COP26. Because it ensures high-quality products without contamination, it is essential to many global industries including pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, water, chemicals, and food and beverage.

Here are four ways that filtration has impacted sustainable practices in the production, storage, and transmission of energy in a variety of industries.

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1. Wind power

Wind power is a sustainable, clean fuel source that doesn’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause greenhouse gases. However, the prospect of going out into the North Sea to repair a failed gearbox on a wind turbine is unlikely to fill you with much joy.

Amazon Filters works with an OEM to produce a special product used in the filtration of the hydraulic fluid used in the gearboxes of the turbines.

This patented technology involves blowing a layer of fibres over the pleats of filtration media. This prevents the pleats from moving during pulsed flow operation and prevents cracking of the filtration media. 

And due to the location of turbines, wind temperature variations can change the oil's viscosity. And if inoperational for a period of time, the oil's thickness is likely to increase. This means when the turbine is restarted, it's more difficult for the oil to flow through the filtration media leading to damage to the original pleats. 

SupaSep LGP structure

Cross-section of filter  

2. Hydrogen 

Wind power generates electricity that can be used for power, but it can also be used to generate hydrogen through electrolysis.

Hydrogen was on the list of ‘Glasgow Breakthroughs’ announced at COP26. The aim is for affordable, renewable, and low-carbon hydrogen to be globally available by 2030. The collaborating bodies intend to show:

  • More affordable, accessible production of renewable and low carbon hydrogen 
  • An increase of renewable and low carbon hydrogen production globally
  • A reduction in greenhouse gas
  • Investments in R&D, demonstration, and deployment of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen technologies

The electrolysis process requires water to be mixed with potassium hydroxide to produce an efficient electrolyte. This solution is caustic and can corrode and degrade the filter housings over time.

But this system needs to be reliable. Amazon Filters manufactured special bespoke housings and filters for filtering water to ensure a lifetime of trouble-free operation.

3. Lithium ion batteries 

Batteries are another method of storage of the power generated through renewables. 

Sales in the UK for plug-in electric vehicles have increased by 140% and hybrid electric vehicles by 12%. They are more sustainable and better for the environment than their petrol counterparts with just one electric car saving an average of 1.5 million grams of CO2 in a year.

Lithium ion batteries are an essential component of electric cars, which means the emissions created during the production of an electric car can be higher than a conventional car. Therefore, it’s vital that manufacturers reduce defects during battery production.

Undissolved lithium salts (LiPF6/LiBF4) in the electrolyte (ethylene carbonate or dimethyl carbonate) can block separators, severely impacting the initial performance, their lifetime, and most importantly, the safety of the cells.

That’s where filtration can have a huge impact. A compatible membrane filter like the SupaPore TPG significantly reduces the risk of quality and performance problems by ensuring the electrolyte is filtered down below 1μm.

4. Production of biofuels

So far, we've looked at ways filtration can help with the generation, storage, and transportation of renewable energy. Biofuels, however, focus on the production of a renewable form of fuel that already exists. 

Biofuels are produced from organic matter unlike fossil fuels, their non-renewable equivalent. Filtration is used to sterilise the air in the fermentation process as well as fermentation additives and the final filtration/purification of the biodiesel.

The production of more biofuels allows companies to make changes to their own sustainability practices. Here are three examples:

  1. McDonald’s is recycling used cooking oil to generate biodiesel to power its supply delivery trucks. Changes like this will have a huge impact, especially when you consider the scale and global reach of companies like McDonald’s.
  2. United Airlines became the first airline to use 100% sustainable aircraft fuel. This can provide an estimated 75% reduction in lifecycle CO2 emissions.
  3. Gevo has added additional processes to produce isobutanol and other derivatives like paraffinic kerosene. Isobutanol can serve as a building block to create a range of renewable fuels and chemicals, including renewable gasoline, sustainable aviation fuel, and renewable diesel.

The positive impact of filtration 

COP26 demonstrated that climate change, sustainability, and greener solutions are not the responsibility of one nation, industry, or company. Everyone has an obligation to actively engage in making their processes more environmentally friendly. Collectively, that’s what will make the difference.

Filtration manufacturers have a role to play too. As we've seen, filtration impacts a huge variety of industries. That’s why you should choose a responsible filter manufacturer who takes sustainability as seriously as you. 

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