Takeda in Austria, a subsidiary of global biopharmaceutical company Takeda Pharmaceutical, announced in January that a natural gas-free steam-generating heat pump running with butane (R600) and water (R718) will be used at its manufacturing site in Vienna, Austria.

The aim of the project, called AHEAD (Advanced Heat Pump Demonstrator), is to achieve a CO2 emissions reduction of up to 90% at one of Takeda’s major manufacturing sites, using only natural refrigerants to address both high-temperature and cooling needs.

The system can reach temperatures of 200-260°C (392-500°F), exceeding the temperature needs of Takeda’s steam supply (184°C/363.2°F).

The system relies on a reciprocating compressor from German manufacturer Sustainable Process Heat that heats water from 70 to about 130°C (149-266°F), evaporating it in the process. This vapor is then compressed to 11bar (160psi) with a steam compressor, heating it to over 184°C, as required for pharmaceutical production.

Harald Erös, AHEAD-project leader for Takeda in Austria, and Head of the board Austrian Association of Refrigeration (ÖGKT), explained that the source for the butane/water heat pump is a 6MW chilled water system and a 2MW heat pump, both running with natural refrigerant ammonia (R717).

By lifting the temperature, the AHEAD system will produce 2.5 metric tons of steam per hour (equivalent to about 1.7 MW). The butane and water heat pump will be a two-stage system.

Considered among the most energy-intensive industries, the pharmaceutical industry requires both low cooling capacity with the ability to initiate chemical and biological processes, and a sterile production environment provided by heat and steam.

So far, heat demand has been covered by natural gas at the site in Vienna.

The heat pump installation is part of a partnership that operates under the AHEAD project with the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK); the Climate and Energy Fund; and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT). Replications of this project are expected soon in other sites, as well as in other energy-intensive sectors, such as paper, chemical and food industry.

AHEAD is a New Energy for Industry (NEFI) project, which is part of the Austrian Science Technology Innovation (FTI) initiative “Flagship region Energy.” AHEAD is expected to go into operation at the end of 2024 and the final evaluation is scheduled for the end of 2025.