Bühler and Vyncke form partnership to offer low-carbon emissions food plants

Transform biomass side streams into clean energy.

Bühler and Vyncke have form a strategic partnership to offer integrated solutions with which biomass side stream products are transformed into clean process energy while reducing operator’s carbon footprint. The dependency on fossil fuels – and with this, CO2 emissions – can potentially decrease from 20-100%, according to the companies, depending on the raw material and side stream products. This means that in some cases, food plants can become fully carbon neutral.

The first focus of the partnership is the segments of cocoa, oat, and malt processing. Peter Vyncke, owner of Vyncke, elaborated: “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. Together, Bühler and Vyncke can now offer integrated and optimised solutions where economic and ecological benefits go hand in hand.”

Biomass by-products are generated in almost all food processes. Some examples include 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 has been making progress in designing its solutions more energy efficient.

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 Mwh, and electrical energy from 0.5-15 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 has become one of the most important levers for business success. With this collaboration, Bühler and Vyncke attempt to address 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.

“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. Today, we are already enabling our customers to reduce emissions by 2.5 million tonnes 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,” Vyncke said.

One joint project will be the expansion of a malt production plant for Malteria Oriental in Montevideo, Uruguay. Malteria Oriental belongs to the Grupo Petrópolis, a Brazilian beer producer. Their brewing business requires more malt, as beer consumption in South America has grown steadily in recent years.

In the project, Vyncke will be responsible for recovering thermal energy from biomass, which is a by-product of malt production. Through an on-site energy audit, Vyncke developed a setup to reduce the size of the energy system by 30%, creating savings in the total investment as well as the operational costs. Vyncke will build a turn-key 20MW superheated water boiler with dual combustion systems, which will burn internal barley husks and plant rejects, completed by externally sourced wood chips. This is expected to save 35,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year compared to standard operation practices in Uruguay, the company claimed.

The new malt house is designed for a batch size of 260 tonnies of barley, and has an annual capacity of 77,000 tonnes of malt. Commissioning and production are scheduled to take place in March next year.

Johannes Wick, CEO of Bühler grains and food, concluded: “By working closely together, we aim to execute projects with less coordination effort for our customers. Our joint innovative strength will drive us into the future, and our customers will have ever better and more efficient solutions at their disposal.”

Both Vyncke and Bühler have set the goal of reducing energy consumption in all new food plants by at least 50% by 2025. Together, both partners aim to create the possibility of making malting plants CO2 neutral.