Investments in the future
For the Uelzena Group, 2021 was another year to sustainably strengthen its production base: Technologies, tower utilisation concepts and quality measures were further optimised in order to meet increasing demand, particularly in the high-quality contract drying sector, while still striving to meet future-oriented environmental challenges.
.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. In the reporting year, Uelzena has taken further measures to save energy, for instance, replacing engines in the cogeneration plant, optimising refrigeration and installing a heat exchanger at the site in Uelzen. Simply converting the ice water bath to a direct cooling system decreased energy consumption by 16 percent. The effects of these measures will 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 39.3 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.
„Our own energy and environment accounting system means that we can calculate both the environmental balance of our company and the carbon footprint of individual products. It also reveals potentials for optimising production to conserve resources and cost reduction.“
Timo Klabunde, Business Administration/Controlling Manager, Uelzena eG
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 action to expand its well water treatment capacity. In addition to using water responsibly, the aim is also to decrease the amount of wastewater and wastewater contamination. While building the new spray drying tower, the company started constructing a wastewater pre-treatment plant that will reduce the wastewater load 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 2022
Many of the preparatory measures to increase energy efficiency will bear fruit in 2022, and will then be reflected in lower costs and improved energy performance indicators. Improving the boiler feed water heating by using waste heat should also achieve considerable further reductions in energy consumption. We will also prioritise the topics of waste and wastewater with a view to expanding production capacities. The impact of the war in Ukraine on energy prices and a possible disruption to gas supply, will accelerate fossil fuel savings.
Sustainability context: The necessity of a sustainable production strategy
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 2021, we produced and sold a total of 236,000 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 31,000 tonnes in 2021, 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.
Our management approach: Production
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.
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