The Swiss-headquartered Bühler Group has teamed up with Belgian industrial firm Vyncke to offer integrated solutions with biomass side streams from cocoa and malt to create clean energy, reports Neill Barston.
As the companies explained to Confectionery Production, the move is expected to hold considerable environmental benefits in terms of reducing customers’ collective carbon footprints.
According to Bühler, the joint venture has the potential to deliver CO2 emissions cuts between 20-100%, depending on the raw material and side stream products being processed.
Significantly, this means that in some cases, food plants can become fully carbon neutral. The first focus of the partnership is within the segments of cocoa, oat, and malt processing.
Underpinning their venture, the two businesses have set a goal of reducing energy consumption in all new food plants by at least 50% by 2025.
“This partnership is a key element in our strategy to massively reduce CO2 in the value chains of our customers,” says Johannes Wick, CEO of Bühler Grains & Food. “Many industries rely on our solutions to reduce their fossil fuel consumption. With Bühler, we now aim to also become the standard to reduce the CO2 footprint of the food industry,” says Peter Vyncke, owner of Vyncke. “Together, Bühler and Vyncke can now offer integrated and optimised solutions where economic and ecological benefits go hand in hand.”
As the company explained, biomass by-products are generated in almost all food processes. Typical examples are the processing of grains, rice, corn, and cocoa. Today, by-products are often either used for animal feed or simply disposed of. From biomass by-products, food manufacturers can also produce a climate-neutral form of energy.
Unlike the combustion of fossil fuels, the use of biomass energy helps controlling greenhouse gas emissions as the only fraction released corresponds to what the plants previously took from the atmosphere during their growth, which is less than transporting the side stream products to a place where they would be used for feed or disposal. This creates a neutral CO2 cycle.
With new equipment, digital services and retrofit offerings, Bühler already made strong progress in making its solutions more energy efficient. “By adding Vyncke’s energy recovery processes to our portfolio, we can offer our customers low- to zero-carbon food solutions,” says Johannes Wick (pictured right in main image and below).
Belgian technology supplier Vyncke specialises in energy production from a wide range of biomass by-products, including industrial or municipal wastes.
The range of biomass-based fuels available for energy production is broad; from agricultural and wood residues to sludges from industrial processes, recycled wood, and specially grown energy crops. Vyncke designs and builds green and clean energy systems that combust biomass and waste to produce thermal process energy from 1-100 megawatt hours (Mwh) and electrical energy from 0.5-15 megawatt electrical (Mwe).
Outside of energy-intensive industries, most companies have tended to view energy procurement as a cost to be managed rather than a strategic area in the value chain. Yet today, energy is becoming one of the most important levers for business success.
With their cooperation, Bühler Group and Vyncke are addressing this issue to develop solutions for more sustainable food production – with holistic process chains in which energy recovery is integrated so that external energy consumption and energy costs can be reduced. This not only contributes to greater sustainability, but also opens competitive advantages for food producers through greater energy efficiency.
“Today, we are far from exploiting the full potential of recovering energy from side stream products. Our goal is to reduce the energy consumption of a food plant by up to 70%. The beauty of our solutions is that sustainability and economic criteria go hand in hand.
“We are already enabling our customers to reduce emissions by 2.5 million tons of CO2 annually. By partnering with Bühler, we can further improve and scale these solutions in an integrated approach to create a much larger positive impact,” adds Peter Vyncke.