The Ferrero approach to energy and cogeneration

Italian chocolate maker Ferrero is building experience with cogeneration and other forms of on-site power at its European production sites with a goal of a wider, global roll-out. Antonio Ghigli, from Ferrero’s energy subsidiary Energhe, describes its cogeneration plants in Italy and Germany.

The Alba Power cogeneration plant features: a 41 MWe gas turbine, a 8 MWe steam turbine and a 78 MWth steam generator (including post firing)

Founded in 2008, Energhe is part of the Italian company Ferrero and consolidates the group’s expertise in the energy sector: energy, electricity, gas and heat. The aim of Energhe is to reduce the environmental impact and increase the energy efficiency of Ferrero’s industrial processes at its factories, as well as to create a profitable and competitive position in the energy industry, leveraging the group’s strengths and an advanced portofolio of technologies and market practices.

Towards this end, the company started to invest in ways to produce the energy used in Ferrero factories, where electricity, steam, hot water and cold water are used simultaneously. It was immediately clear that cogeneration/trigeneration technology was the most suitable to utilise for self-producing energy.

Since it began, Energhe has grown very rapidly both in terms of its number of power plants and its installed capacity. The priority was given to those factories in which the benefits from investing in energy generation were greatest. Hence, attention was focused on Europe. Figure 1 shows the yearly total installed capacity in operation, starting from 2008.

Today, most of the Ferrero’s European factories benefit from their own self-generation facilities. The cogeneration plant Alba Power, which was developed in partnership with the local public utility company, stands out among these for its capacity and features.

This plant, with an electrical output of 49 MW, meets most of the electrical and heating needs of the Ferrero factory in Alba and produces electricity that is fed into the public network and supplies the district heating network of the city of Alba.

Figure 1. Self-generation installed capacity at Ferrero, which includes 50% (24.5 MW) of the power of from the Alba Power plant, which has been developed in partnership with the local utility company

This plant’s set-up has made it the first in Italy to receive green certificates and energy efficiency certificates. But the main features of each plant are carefully defined case by case, depending on the characteristics of the factory it will serve.

Attention is devoted to the selection of the technology of the primary mover ” the choice between a gas turbine and reciprocating engines depends on various aspects such as electrical and thermal efficiency.

Also, the environmental and other regulations in force in each country play an important role in the design phase.

EXPERIENCE IN GERMANY

Ferrero’s industrial presence in Germany is focused on its production facility located in the centre of the country. Initially, it was decided to build a 5 MW gas-fired cogeneration plant to serve the factory’s electrical and steam consumption. The plant went into production in 2007, 12 months after the construction phase got underway. As well as electricity, the plant produces steam both in a simple recovery mode and with post-firing in order to be able to cover the factory’s peak demand.

The Stadtallendorf factory in Germany features two gas-fired cogeneration plants:

On the basis of positive results and the factory’s increased consumption, it was decided at the beginning of 2009 to build a second gas-fired cogeneration plant. During the feasibility study, several different alternatives were considered ” simple cogeneration mode and combined-cycle with electrical capacities in the range of 5″20 MW. Cost/benefits comparisons concluded that a simple cogeneration plant with an electrical power of 8 MW was the best option.

Preliminary discussions with the local government of Hessen region defined in detail the licensing and permissions procedure. Then a study to determine environmental impacts was carried out.

The analysis found that the total installed capacity of the factory ” cogeneration plants as well as traditional boilers ” necessitated a ‘complete’ permission procedure for the new plant, including a public discussion phase. This meant the entire permission procedure lasted about eight months and required a continuous measurement of emissions into the atmosphere.

FUTURE PROJECTS

Energhe is now conducting a feasibility study to investigate using by-products from its industrial processes for generating energy. The project is examining the practicality of a bio-digestion plant that would produce biogas exclusively from Ferrero industrial by-products. The biogas would then be used in the reciprocating engines of a 1″2 MWe cogeneration plant to produce electricity and heat for on-site use.

As the biogas plant would be realized close to the factory, the project would deliver a major environmental benefit by reducing carbon dioxide emissions in two ways: producing energy from renewable sources and drastically reducing the transport currently required for disposing of the by-products.

RESULTS ACHIEVED

Increasing the quantity of self-produced energy through high-efficiency cogeneration plants has sharply reduced the factory’s primary energy consumption and consequently its greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the company has achieved a reduction in its energy costs. Such results are of even greater importance considering that, in the same period, Ferrero’s production volumes have increased.

In parallel with these results, through the establishment of a trading unit, Energhe has been able to serve additional customers, mainly in the food industry in order to optimize the energy and environmental footprint of the group’s whole value chain.

Based on the results obtained so far, Energhe is now extending its activities outside Europe. It is evaluating the opportunity to install self-generation facilities in all Ferrero factories worldwide.

For example, a gas-fired trigeneration plant is in the design stage in Canada, and other projects are under evaluation in India, Ireland, Mexico and Turkey.

CONCLUSIONS

The activity of Energhe represents good evidence of the group’s commitment to improving its efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint of its industrial processes. In addition, this can be considered as a real example of an even greater commitment to transforming the energy and environmental ‘challenge’ into a growth opportunity for Ferrero.

Antonio Ghigli is with Energhe, Alba, Italy. Email: antonio.ghigli@ferrero.comà‚ 

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