Achieving energy efficiency in the food and beverage industry

Wednesday, 07 October, 2015

Achieving energy efficiency in the food and beverage industry

Food industry companies are increasingly confronted with the challenges of climate protection and sustainable development. The motto is: more efficiency, less CO2. What savings potential can still be achieved in modern food production?

177 times around the world with a mid-sized car — that’s the equivalent potential savings in carbon dioxide emissions that can be achieved by a single mid-sized company in the meat industry, according to measurement technology vendor Endress+Hauser. Energy costs may only account for an average 2% of revenues in the food industry, but sustainable solutions to reduce energy consumption are essential for producers if they want to survive in the market over the long term.

Prof Dr Antonio Delgado from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany sees the food industry as a particular area of conflict because “any measure taken to increase energy efficiency may neither be detrimental to food quality or food safety” — which, in other words, means many of the measures developed in other industries are not suitable.

Synergy effects in the heating cycle

Delgado sees one way to greater energy efficiency in the use of energetic interactions between the production process and infrastructure. First and foremost, large savings potential results from the synergetic effects between heat generation and refrigeration. How creative companies can become in this regard is demonstrated by Maggi in Singen, Germany. The plant uses the waste heat from the nearby cupola furnace of a foundry. The energy extracted from the exhaust gas is stored in a thermal oil and pumped through a conduit into Maggi’s boiler house 200 m away. There, a complex system of heat exchangers and steam boilers ensures that pure steam is always available for production. 50,000 MWh, about two-thirds of the steam required, generates heat recovery. It is claimed the company thereby saves up to 11,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

The fact that energy demand can be systematically reduced by intelligently combining existing facilities is also evident in Warsteiner, Germany, where a family brewery invests continuously to increase its efficiency while protecting the environment. The loading hall’s ventilation system has recently been upgraded to the latest technology. The ventilation system ducts were improved, the supply air optimised, the control system retooled, ceiling fans were installed and several small heat recovery systems retrofitted. These measures not only save valuable heating energy and improve air quality in the loading hall, but CO2 emissions are also lowered by an estimated 1100 tonnes per year.

Small cause, big effect

As they take life cycle costs into account, food manufacturers that are riding the ‘green technology wave’ are taking a precise look at what they can save, where and how. It is often the little components that, in total, have a major impact on efficiency, as in the case of sparkling wine producer Rotkäppchen. Many sophisticated solutions used in the production process contribute to the efficiency of sparkling wine bottling: dynamic handling units for sealing the bottles, sturdy tabletop chains for bottle transport and efficient motors for the conveyor technology.

50 mechatronic drive units from SEW-EURODRIVE were installed in the bottling line. They already meet Class IE4 energy-efficiency requirements and save up to 50% of energy compared to conventional drives. The corresponding frequency inverters at Rotkäppchen are housed in a central switch cabinet container. Its waste heat is used in winter to heat a storage area.

Energy flows at a glance

Prior to any measure, the question first arises: where do you start to achieve these kinds of energy savings?

To find out which savings potential lurks where, the actual state must be known. The building blocks for energy optimisation are online — measuring devices that continuously record the energy flows for steam, compressed air, heat, cold, electricity, gas, oil and water. A flowmeter optimised for energy circuits is, for example, able to detect leaks in compressed air networks. This lets you detect critical aggregates or process steps and permanently maintain peak demand within tight tolerances. Energy efficiency as an integral part of automation is another way to tap savings potential — proving once again that the greatest potential to conserve resources and reduce costs is the efficient use of the energy already available.

Many technologies and methods to reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions were shown at Anuga FoodTec 2015 in Germany in March. The next conference will be held in Cologne, Germany, from 20–23 March 2018. For further details about the fair, visit

Image credit: © Gool

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