CANCUN, Mexico Power plants and industries operating at high temperature have huge overlooked potential to use insulation to cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, a top Danish insulation group said on Saturday.
"On a global basis you are talking billions of dollars" in savings, Frank Jacobs, managing director of Rockwool technical insulation and president of the European Industrial Insulation Foundation, told Reuters during U.N. climate talks.
Governments tend to focus insulation legislation on homes and buildings, largely leaving industries to decide on designs for plants that often need temperatures from 200 to 600 degrees Celsius (400 to 1,100 F) for industrial processes.
Insulating pipes, boilers and tanks in power plants and other industries could help preserve heat inside, cutting costs by reducing energy demand in sectors such as power generation, petrochemicals, metals or paper and pulp.
That in turn could contribute to slowing global warming by reducing fossil fuel energy use. Rockwool said that one industrial client would save 8.5 million euros ($11.21 million) by insulating 14 warm storage tanks.
"Energy waste from industrial plants are 10 times those from buildings," he said in a telephone interview. Rockwool was among the companies attending a World Climate Summit of businesses in the Mexican Caribbean beach resort of Cancun.
Governments tend not to regulate industrial energy use as much as households because processes vary and companies have an obvious incentive to be efficient to save energy.
But Rockwool said industrial insulation is often mostly to protect workers against burns. Such safety insulation is often 3 cms (1 inch) thick, against a coming demand in Europe for 30 cms thickness for the roofs of new buildings, Jacobs said.
He said that governments should seek tighter rules and that industries should consider insulation from the start of design projects. The Insulation Federation was trying to develop a system of energy use checks to guide industries.
Rockwool says it is the world's leading producer of "stone wool," made from basalt rock heated until it turns to lava and is then spun into a candy floss-like consistency. It can withstand temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 F).
Rockwool had an operating profit of 613 million Danish crowns ($108.5 million) in the first nine months of 2010 on sales of 8.4 billion crowns.
A study by consultants McKinsey has indicated that installing insulation in buildings is one of the most cost-effective ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
(Editing by Paul Simao)