What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power) + Types & Working Principle

What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power)

What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power) – Using various technologies and fuels, CHP is a system that efficiently generates thermal and electrical energy. Losses are reduced thanks to on-site power generation, and heat that would otherwise be lost is used to power facility loads in the form of steam, hot water, or even chilled water for process heating. CHP can be district energy, microgrid, utility resource, or it can be installed at a single building or facility. It can also supply electricity and thermal energy to several end users. In the case of grid failures, CHP equipment can deliver reliable power around the clock, and it may be combined with other dispersed energy technologies like solar photovoltaics (PV) and energy storage. 

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What is CHP?

A well-known system called combined heat and power (CHP), or cogeneration (Cogen) concurrently produces electricity and heat from a fuel input.

When compared to buying gas and electricity separately to fuel on-site boilers, cogeneration can reduce primary energy expenditures by up to 30%.

CHP has been utilized for a long time in a variety of sectors and around the world (steam boilers and steam turbines, steam boilers and steam turbines, gas turbines, reciprocating engines and heat recovery systems). The fuel source, market sector, and size that are accessible are typically indicators of the arrangements chosen.

CHP increased quickly in the industry with the installation of gas turbines and steam boiler plants, as well as within the commercial sector and hospitals with the installation of gas engine plants after the privatization of British Gas in 1986 and the hunt for gas in the 1990s. Due to the need for more operational flexibility and the reduction in plant size, gas engine CHP is now the most popular technology.

All of the main manufacturers have biogas and biomethane green gas engine variations as part of the push towards a sustainable, carbon-free economy, and they are also future-proofing their technology to utilize hydrogen (mixed or pure).

CHP is a tested technology that uses low-carbon natural gas as a fuel source to produce electricity at up to 95% efficiency. The carbon profile of CHP will decrease when gas networks go green. However, CHP may offer zero or a negative carbon position directly using zero-carbon fuels.

Businesses should always take into account CHP or trigeneration, commonly referred to as combined cooling, heat, and power (CHP), while planning the construction of new facilities or upgrades to existing ones (CCHP). CHP may be a useful tool for helping businesses provide a secure, reliable, and flexible energy supply.

What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power)
A combined heat and power plant (Reference: reenergisegroup.com)


Working Principle of CHP Plant

Burning a fuel source—fossil or renewable—produces energy that powers a prime mover, such as a reciprocating engine or gas turbine, which generates both mechanical power and heat. An alternator transforms the mechanical power into electricity, and the heat may either be used immediately or transformed to satisfy the site’s needs.

The energy efficiency of a CHP system may reach up to 95% for particular applications, while generally, they meet between 70 and 80%, which is a major increase over importing grid power and producing heat the old-fashioned way. The cost of manufacturing is reduced by increased energy production efficiency, and if carbon fuels are utilized as fuel, the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere per unit of energy generated is reduced.

Because the cogenerated energy and heat are generated and used locally rather than being transported from distant producers to consumers, which results in transmission losses of about 7.5%, further power efficiencies are attained.

CHP may enhance the energy efficiency, reduce energy costs, and improve the carbon footprint of a site based on the price difference and site-specific requirements. CHP can provide a carbon neutral or negative position depending on the fuel sources employed (for example, biogas and hydrogen).

What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power)
Schematic view of a combined cycle power plant (Reference: edina.eu)


Advantages of a CHP System

CHP, Trigeneration, or Quadgeneration should be taken into account as components of an energy plan if your organization uses electricity, heat, steam, cooling, and CO2 in its operations and activities. Although it doesn’t work for every organization, CHP can provide significant advantages like:

  • Decrease or control energy costs
  • Reduction in carbon footprint
  • Operational flexibility aids in managing energy demand and supply
  • Enhanced energy resilience
  • Protecting your facility from unpredictable external energy issues in the future
  • Generating both heat and power using the same fuel

The advantages of CHP over conventional methods of producing electricity and heat separately are numerous, and the ones mentioned above are only a few.

Common CHP Configurations

The following are the top two arrangements for CHP systems:

  • Reciprocating engine or combustion turbine with the heat recovery unit
  • A steam turbine and a steam boiler

Reciprocating Engine Or Combustion Turbine With The Heat Recovery Unit

A reciprocating engine or a combustion turbine CHP systems employ heat recovery devices to collect the heat from the turbine or engine while burning fuel (natural gas, oil, or biogas) to spin generators that create electricity. In most cases, steam or hot water is produced as a result of the conversion of this heat into usable thermal energy.

What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power)
Diagram of Reciprocating Engine Or Combustion Turbine With The Heat Recovery Unit configuration (Reference: epa.gov)

A Steam Turbine And A Steam Boiler

When using steam turbines, the procedure starts with the creation of steam in a boiler. The steam is then utilized to drive a turbine that powers an electricity-generating generator. It is possible to generate usable thermal energy from the steam that exits the turbine. These systems may run on a range of fuels, including coal, biomass, natural gas, and oil.

  • The Catalog of CHP Technologies contains a detailed list of CHP technologies along with details on their performance and cost parameters.
  • A comprehensive technical analysis of biomass CHP systems may be found in the Biomass CHP Catalog of Technologies.
What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power)
Diagram of A Steam Turbine And A Steam Boiler configuration (Reference: epa.gov)

Types of CHP Plants

Steam turbines are the main source of energy production in topping cycle facilities. The partially expanded steam is then condensed at an appropriate temperature, such as for district heating or water desalination, in a heating condenser.

A waste heat recovery boiler then supplies an electricity plant with the high-temperature heat produced by bottoming cycle facilities for industrial activities. Bottoming cycle plants are less prevalent since they are only utilized in industrial processes that demand extremely high temperatures, such as furnaces for the production of glass and metal.

Large cogeneration systems supply electricity and warmth for an industrial site or a full town. Typical forms of CHP plants include:

  • Gas turbine CHP facilities that use the waste heat from the gas turbines’ exhaust gas. Natural gas is frequently utilized as fuel.
  • Gas motor Reciprocating gas engines are used in CHP plants because they are, up to a capacity of 5 MW, more cost-effective than gas turbines. Natural gas is often utilized as the gaseous fuel. These plants are often produced as completely packed units that can be easily connected to the site’s gas supply, electrical distribution network, and heating systems to be put within a plantroom or outside a plant complex.
  • A biofuel engine CHP plants are extremely similar in design to gas engine CHP plants and employ a modified reciprocating gas engine or diesel engine, depending on which biofuel is being used. Utilizing biofuel has the benefit of reducing fossil fuel usage and, consequently, carbon emissions. These plants are often produced as completely packed units that can be easily connected to the site’s electrical distribution and heating systems and put inside a plantroom or outside the plant complex. Another option is a wood gasifier CHP plant, which gasifies wood pellets or wood chips as biofuel at high temperatures and with no oxygen before using the generated gas to power a gas engine.
  • Combined cycle power plants with CHP conversions
  • Both solid oxide fuel cells and molten-carbonate fuel cells have a hot exhaust that is excellent for heating.
  • Steam generator CHP systems where the steam condenser for the steam turbine is the heating system
  • Nuclear power stations can be equipped with extractions in the turbines to bleed partly expanded steam to a heating system, just as normal steam turbine power plants. For every MW of power loss, it is feasible to extract around 10 MW of heat at a heating system temperature of 95 °C. At 130 °C, the increase is a little less significant—roughly 7 MW are gained for each MWe lost.

A Stirling engine or a reciprocating engine may be used in smaller cogeneration units. The radiator and exhaust are used to remove heat. Because tiny gas and diesel engines are less expensive than small gas or oil-fired steam-electric plants, the systems are popular at modest capacities.

Some cogeneration facilities use biomass, industrial waste, or municipal solid waste as fuel (see incineration). Some CHP facilities generate heat and electricity using waste gas as fuel. Waste gasses include sewage gas, landfill gas, gas from coal mines, gas from animal waste, and gas from flammable industrial waste.

For added technical and environmental performance, several cogeneration plants combine gas and solar photovoltaic generation. These hybrid systems may be scaled down to the level of a building or even a single residence.

What is CHP? (Combined Heat and Power)
Various types if CHP plants (Reference: elprocus.com)


How to Choose a System for Cogeneration?

When choosing the cogeneration system, several considerations are taken into account.

  • Matching electrical loads
  • Thermal-load synchronization
  • Matching the base electrical load
  • Matching the base-thermal load
  • Heat-to-power conversion
  • The needed type of thermal energy
  • Install outlines
  • Current Fuels

When Should We Take a Look at CHP?

It should always be taken into account when:

  • Designing a new structure
  • New boiler plant installation
  • Upgrading or replacing the current plant
  • Examining the Electrical Supply
  • The primary source of fuel
  • Supplier of mechanical work to the shaft through the motor element


This concludes our discussion of cogeneration, its various forms, and its applications in power plants, which primarily serve a wide range of industries and sectors, including wastewater treatment, the military, the industrial sector, data centers, the leisure industry, hotels, hospitals, prisons, educational institutions, horticulture, mixed developments, etc.

FAQs about CHP Systems

1. What Is CHP Renewable Energy?

A very effective method for capturing and using the heat produced as a byproduct of producing electricity is called combined heat and power (CHP).

2. Does CHP Need Gas?

When it becomes commercially feasible, CHP may use low-carbon natural gas as well as renewable fuels like biogas, biomethane, syngas, sewage gas, and hydrogen. Both liquid biofuels and solid biomass may be used with other CHP technology.

3. Can CHP be Used for Cooling?

CHP facilities offer a variety of consumers local heat, electricity, and occasionally even cooling.


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