Neil Simpson
BEng(Hons) CEng MEI FSGT MIRefEng,
Independent Consultant - Simpson Combustion and Energy Ltd

Use of In-Furnace Thermal Imaging for 4.0 and Decarbonisation in Steel, Non-Ferrous and Glass

For over 100 years, optical pyrometers have been the temperature measurement instrument of choice for high-temperature combustion processes. In many of these processes temperatures are taken using an optical pyrometer at least once per shift and sometimes every 20 minutes. Whenever there is a process related problem, an AMETEK Land Cyclops L or equivalent pyrometer is used to check temperatures at critical points in the furnace or kiln. Thirty years ago, during the commissioning of a 2D model-based steel reheat control system, there was only one fixed location pyrometer on a furnace.

Ten years ago, AMETEK Land developed the Near Infrared Borescope [NIR-B], which initially measured 324,000 optical temperatures continuously in the furnace. For ease of display, the temperatures generate a visual, thermal image of the furnace, often confused as simply a CCTV image. It now displays up to 3 million fully radiometric calibrated camera pixels in the temperature range from 600 to 1800 °C / 1112 to 3272 °F – a development of technical significance for energy-intensive heavy industries like steel, non-ferrous and glass production.

When analysing the massive amounts of furnace temperature data captured by the NIR-B, it is worth looking to other professions such as accountants who use variance and models. In-furnace thermal imaging enables the validation of CFD models and supports predictive control. The use of alarms for variance to design, set point, and previous minute/hour/day/week/month improves quality and yield and reduces waste as the first step to decarbonisation. The second is the optimisation and reduction of specific energy. The third is the optimisation of alternative, bio and renewable fuels and the final element is the support for developing new technologies and control.


Neil Simpson holds a Bachelor (Hons) of Engineering in Energy from Edinburgh Napier University. Initially, he worked for Laidlaw Drew to develop oxy burners, including oxy oil, then BOC's CGM development team in Ohio, US. He was a BOC GMIC representative and chair of the Energy Efficiency Committee. He moved back to the UK and joined Eclipse as Glass Industry Manager and then re-joined BOC in the UK with responsibility for Glass, Metals and Cement.

Seven years ago, Neil established Simpson Combustion and Energy Ltd as an independent consultancy to work with the glass industry worldwide. He is a registered trainer for CelSian and organises 5-day training courses, plus supports the delivery of specialist combustion modules.

With over 20 published patent applications, he is a Chartered Engineer, a member of the Energy Institute, and the Institute Refractory. He is also a Fellow of the Society of Glass Technology, and previously a Chairman of the Board of Fellows and chaired the Melting Technical Committee, which organises Furnace Solutions.

In 2016, he became a consultant to AMETEK Land and, in June 2017, was part of the team, including AMETEK Land and Encirc, that won a British Glass - Glass Focus Innovation Award. Supporting AMETEK Land in the optimisation of glass furnaces, he has supported joint papers presented at the last four Glass Problems Conferences, plus the most recent AFGM, AIGM, Sise Cam and INFUB 12 conferences.

The COVID lockdown has now led to him delivering remote consulting and online training courses with attendees from around the globe. His courses include Basics of Combustion, In Furnace Thermal Optimisation, Oxy Fuel Combustion, and the most recent addition, Industrial Combustion Decarbonization 101.4.