Electrifying Lead Heating Process for Safety, Savings and Environmental Impact
The manufacturing process for lead batteries at EnerSys requires melting the lead in pots for casting and grid production. Traditionally, this process involves heating several tons of the metal with a large, gas-fired burner. However, this process is less than optimal: temperature control can be difficult and uneven. Not only can this be inefficient, but the direct application of the heat to melt the lead can cause stress in the steel pot and ultimately result in cracks over time. A cracked pot can lead to a potentially dangerous situation for both our workers and the environment.
With safety and environmental stewardship a core part of our values, EnerSys decided to transform our gas-fired lead pot process into a safer process powered by electricity. The new pots, which are being rolled out at all of our factories, have embedded electric heatercoils, which enable uniform heating and dramatically reduce the stress placed on the pots. This reduces the likelihood of cracking and any environmental or safety issues. Even heating also means the process is more efficient. With gas-fired pots, the heat is indirectly transferred from the burner to the space underneath the lead pot, heating the contents. With electric heating, the heat transfer is direct. Moreover, unlike the gas-fired burners, electricity is coming increasingly from renewable sources.
Thus, electrification of the melting process also over time lowers the carbon footprint of the batteries we make – which themselves often play a role in renewable energy storage.
“Nothing has a higher priority at our factories than the health and safety of our employees and of our community. Making this switch is the right thing to do,” explains John Gagge, EnerSys Vice President of Battery Operations for the Americas.
Health and Safety Benefits
The electric lead pot process significantly reduces risks. If in a rare situation a pot were to crack, with this new process, there is no risk of lead particles being emitted into the air or contaminating workers.
Transitioning from a gas-fired lead pot process to electric heating is also key to advancing decarbonization goals. Electricity increasingly has a lower carbon footprint than using combustible gas, and when combined with the EnerSys suite of battery and energy storage solutions, this new process enables us to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
As part of our commitment to health and safety, as well as furthering the transition to clean energy, we’ve implemented an across-the-board process to make the transition at all of our battery manufacturing facilities. We are currently monitoring the switch at our multiple facilities in the United States and Mexico and continue to evaluate the roll-out across our operations around the world.
Cost Savings Benefits
The decision to switch from gas-fired lead pots to electric was not made based on economics alone. However, we are seeing notable reductions in gas usage in our factories that implemented this process.
An EnerSys plant where lead is now heated with electricity