Investment in environmentally friendly technologies
Avoiding losses and improving efficiencies – Uelzena pursues this goal by continuously optimising processes and improving plant technology, persistently reducing negative effects on the environment. However, due to Covid-19, production capacity in 2020 decreased and the relatively high basic energy requirement meant that it was not possible to improve the environmental performance indicators.
.Greater production efficiency
At all its sites, the Uelzena Group continuously invests in measures to make production more efficient and productive while also minimising any negative impact on the environment. In terms of steam generation, efficiency was improved by optimising the boiler feed water heating and replacing a burner, which reduced energy consumption. Investments in modernising steam generation systems were also made at the Ratzeburg site, which delivered a reduction in noise emissions as well as energy savings. Our energy management system, which has been in place since 2013, was certified for the updated DIN EN ISO 50001 standard in order to continuously increase energy efficiency and reduce energy use. This creates additional transparency for optimising processes and also offers improved connectability to other management systems. In the reporting year, Uelzena has taken preparatory measures for further energy savings, for instance, replacing engines in the cogeneration plant, optimising refrigeration, and installing a heat exchanger. Simply converting the ice water bath to a direct cooling system decreased energy consumption by 16 percent. However, the effects will only be reflected in the key performance indicators for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in years to come.
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in relation to production volume in kg (intensity). The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to total tonnage in the base year 2012 was 42.4 percent.
.Groundbreaking investment project
In planning the new spray drying tower project, great importance was placed on the most energy-efficient and resource-conserving design, which is now reflected in its implementation. The spray tower is enclosed and insulated to reduce heat loss and save energy. Heat exchangers in the ventilation systems ensure effective preheating of the supply air by recovering heat from the exhaust air. Wherever possible, process heat is recovered and losses reduced to a minimum. Frequency-regulated burners in the boiler house also ensure steam generation that conserves gas. The entire plant is equipped with modern, energy-saving LED lighting. Existing electric motors, for example for pumps, are fitted with frequency converters to automate their output and adjust them as required using the plant control system. All cleaning processes are optimised to conserve resources and are reduced to a minimum by employing various technologies. What’s more, a series of measures is planned to lower dust and noise emissions.
„Profit maximisation and protection of the environment are not mutually exclusive. Greater efficiency in production and a more economic use of energy sources are good for the wallet and the planet!“
Dr. Peter Fichtl, Managing Director Production & Technology, Uelzena
Water, waste, and wastewater
The resource-efficient use of water plays an essential role in the manufacturing processes as water is needed for production, steam generation, cooling, and for plant cleaning. The Group’s product diversity, which also includes kosher and halal products, intensifies the need for cleaning, and we are continually working on optimising cleaning processes, especially in the context of evaporation. In the reporting year, the company took preparatory measures to expand its water treatment capacity of well water. In addition to using water responsibly, the aim is also to decrease the amount of wastewater and wastewater contamination. All wastewater targets were met in 2020. While building the new spray drying tower, the company started planning a wastewater pre-treatment plant that will reduce wastewater contamination by 10 to 15 percent. On the subject of waste, the Uelzena Group follows a prevent, reduce, and recycle approach. Returnable systems when sourcing raw materials and recycling recoverables play a critical role in this approach.
Outlook for 2021
Many of the preparatory measures to increase energy efficiency will only bear fruit in 2021 and will then be reflected in lower costs and improved energy performance indicators. Focus will remain on our core investment projects to complete the agglomeration plant in Ratzeburg and the construction of the spray drying plant in Uelzen. We will also prioritise the topics of waste and wastewater with a view to expanding production capacities. The CO2 price introduced in Germany in January 2021 will significantly increase production costs of energy-intense processes such as spray drying and contract drying. To conserve fossil fuels, the focus will be on improving the efficiency of steam generation and cooling.
The Uelzena Group is a medium-sized industrial enterprise that predominantly processes milk raw materials into food products such as butter, milk powder or cheese. In 2020, we produced and sold a total of 227,000 tonnes of products – most of which were made from milk. Refining is an intense process and requires a high input of natural resources including fresh water and natural gas as an energy carrier. At the same time our sites produce greenhouse gases, wastewater and waste.
Examples: Greenhouse gases. With CO2 emissions of just
over 30,000 tonnes in 2020, the Uelzena Group is not one of the major emitters nationwide. CO2 emissions per tonne produced could be reduced by 48 percent since 2012. Nevertheless, Uelzena is committed to contributing towards reaching climate protection goals. The German government has decided to become climate neutral by 2045.
The Uelzena Group keeps its production equipment at the cutting edge of technology in order to limit negative effects on the environment as much as possible. Year after year, the Uelzena Group invests in measures to make its four sites more efficient, productive and cleaner. A welcome effect: The measures improve the input-output ratio, reduce the use of energy and resources per product unit whilst the entire Uelzena Group produces fewer emissions.
Energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and wastewater are the key sustainability topics for our production. In particular the company’s stakeholders are interested in learning how the Uelzena Group handles these topics. Stakeholders include food industry customers, employees, authorities and the shareholders of Uelzena Group as our members as well as residents living close to our production sites.
The production department actively pursues relevant sustainability topics. Our objectives are to continuously reduce emissions and consumption of resources per ton of product produced, while increasing productivity at the same time. In order to achieve these objectives, several measures have been developed and implemented.
Our sustainable production strategy – overview on our targets and measures
Production and environment
- The Uelzena Group aims to reduce the emissions of undesired substances into the environment. These emissions include greenhouse gases, wastewater and waste.
- The consumption of natural resources such as fresh water or gas must be continuously reduced.
- Efficiency must also continue to be improved.
Energy and climate
- Some examples of measures that were implemented for increasing energy efficiency include new heat recovery systems, high-performance electric motors and energy-efficient LED lights.
- Cogeneration units at Uelzen and Bismark generate heat, steam and electricity that we consume in a highly efficient way. Efficiency is 84 percent at each plant; this is 14 percent above the legally defined efficiency target for these types of power plants. Moreover, electricity surpluses are also fed into the public grid for a fee.
- Based on its certified energy management system according to ISO 50001, the Uelzena Group has improved the energy efficiency at all of its sites.
Wastewater and water
- Water from production processes is recycled, and always under strict observance of the legal regulations. We even reuse condensed steam for the generation of steam.
- Optimisation of the cleaning processes in the evaporator area.
- At our Warmsen site, an on-site sewage treatment plant cleans the wastewater from the facility so that it has the quality of river water.
- At our other sites, we discharge our wastewater into local municipal sewage plants. The wastewater quantity as well as the wastewater load are constantly optimised using a management process and on-site measures.
- The Uelzena Group separates waste and recycles recyclable materials such as paper, wood and plastics.
- Added to that, excess waste from deliveries is prevented if at all possible by way of respective agreements with suppliers.
A multi-year improvement programme was introduced in production. The name of this programme is “Production OC 2025” with its focus placed on work and communication processes as well as on organising cooperative work. Objectives: To increase employees’ motivation and competencies and to trigger continuous improvement processes. The programme was introduced at the Uelzen site in 2016, Bismark followed in 2017, and the plan is to introduce this in Ratzeburg in 2021.