Water Horizon is a Toulouse company which has developed a thermal battery to recover industrial waste heat, store it and distribute it in the form of clean energy.
The energy is stored in chemical form in batteries, which are transported by truck between where the heat is recovered and where it is used. A valuable service for companies wishing to enhance their fatal heatand for the users of this heat, who are able to implement projects without investing massively in their own infrastructure.
Jean-Emmanuel Faure, CEO and founder of Water Horizon*explained to Techniques de l’Ingénieur the technology developed in his company, and also the choice made to prioritize the cold supply market.
Engineering Techniques: Explain to us the innovation behind the genesis of Water Horizon?
Jean-Emmanuel Faure : Water Horizon is a Toulouse company created in 2017. We are developing heat storage technology in the form of thermal battery. The heat will be stored in the form of chemical reaction potentialwhich means that there is no loss over time, and it will be redistributed, in the form of heat or cold (or both), to another location. This is thermochemistry, with a reversible reaction, exothermic in one direction and endothermic in the other. This reaction is coupled with absorption pumps – an old technology now replaced by heat pumps which offer better efficiency – which make it possible to produce cold without electricity, the compressor not operating electrically but chemically.
We are targeting the industrial waste heat recovery market. There are numerous large deposits of industrial waste heat. To give an order of magnitude, in Europe, industrial waste heat represents the equivalent of 100 nuclear reactors, which is absolutely colossal.
Why is this heat so little valued today?
Today, in fact, the majority of this waste heat is not recovered because manufacturers do not have at their disposal technical solutions that are simple to implement. That’s what Water Horizon brings to them, and being able to use the storage capacity of our batteries as an energy carrier, recovering heat from a point where it’s lost and bringing it to a point where it can be consumed. The goal is to create a local circular economy, where heat collection and redistribution points are relatively close, theoretically around fifty kilometers – an hour’s drive – at most. In reality, of the 250 projects we are working on today, the longest distance between heat recovery and distribution is 21 kilometers. The territorial industrial network is such that large sources of waste heat are very often close to SMEs and small ETIs which have heating or cold needs.
What is the business model behind the technology developed by Water Horizon?
We are not equipment manufacturers, we do not sell batteries. What we sell are kWh of hot or cold. We are targeting more cold delivery, what we call CAAS, cooling as a servicebecause it is a market in strong growth, unlike that of heat supply which has tended to decline over the past ten years.
To put it simply, we will install a Linky cold meter at the customer’s home, and the customer will simply consume the cold he needs. To ensure continuity of service if necessary, two batteries are deployed, one discharging while the other recharges. This is, for example, what is happening on a project which allowed Water Horizon to commission its first industrial thermal battery, to recover waste heat from the Toulouse incinerator in order to supply hot and cold to a complex. local sports center, equipped with a swimming pool and an ice rink.
What are the motivations for a company that will contact you to recover its fatal heat?
Firstly, what is interesting for the client is that we take care of everything: finding the consumer, setting up the project, financing it. That is to say that neither the producer nor the consumer needs to invest in technology, in batteries to be able to benefit from the added value created.
Then, we will actively integrate the producer into the project so that he can best benefit from the benefits in terms of images, economic benefits, and soon in terms of taxes, since waste heat will one day be taxed.
At our level, we have observed a shift in the way in which producers of waste heat deal with the problem of recovering this heat. Especially the major producers of waste heat, who understand that the subject of recovering this heat is becoming more important, particularly because it is now taken into account in ESG criteria.
Finally, there is the question of image. Today, HR managers of highly polluting companies are finding it more and more difficult to recruit, and are showing interest in waste heat recovery technologies, the implementation of which demonstrates the company’s desire to limit its impact, improving thus their image among young professionals.
You mention 250 projects in which Water Horizon is involved to date. How are these projects distributed geographically?
Approximately 90% of these projects are located in France, and the remaining 10% are abroad. We do not do commercial prospecting, and we even tend to slow down incoming requests. Today, we are in the industrialization phase of our batteries, so we are rather in the upstream phase of the projects in which we are involved, while waiting to have a factory to produce our batteries. This should be the case at the end of 2025. Until then, we will ramp up, with two projects already planned for this year and 3 to 5 next year.