Cosun will work in a completely different way in its two Dutch sugar factories in the near future. A battery of gigantic heat pumps will upgrade residual heat for the production process. To be able to work in this way, the crystallization of the sugar — which is the core of production — must be completely overhauled. The new installations at the Vierverlaten factory will be ready in 2027-2029. The ones in Dinteloord, a few years later. As a result, these locations will each save 50 percent on gas and emit 40 percent less CO2 compared with 2018. The factories also save €10 million per year on the purchase of natural gas and emission rights.
On the way to CO2-neutral
Cosun Beet Company’s sugar factories are among the most energy-efficient in Europe; in comparison with 1990, CO2 emissions have fallen by 58%. The speciality factories in Puttershoek and Roosendaal are even powered by Cosun’s own Solar Park. Bas Nijssen, energy transition manager at Cosun Beet Company says: ‘That is fine, but the climate requires that industries like ours significantly reduce fossil energy consumption and CO2 emissions. We are therefore opting for a drastic solution: a major adjustment in the production process.’ V-RISE, is the name of this conversion. This will reduce the CO2 footprint by 40% and the factories will each use half as much gas. Ultimately, our factories will be completely carbon neutral by 2050.
Heat is crucial when extracting sugar from beets. The production process results in low-grade residual heat: water at about fifty degrees. Cosun Beet Company cannot reuse this in its factories. Additionally, it cannot be used to heat houses or greenhouses continuously: a sugar factory does not run all year round. Cosun Beet Company is therefore required to cool this residual heat. This requires energy and the heat is lost.
‘Looking at the whole production process, we cannot actually make anything even more energy-efficient. That is why we are taking a rigorous step: we are going to change our entire process. With heat pumps, we will upgrade residual heat so that we can use that heat again,’ explains Bas. Both factories will have a row of five to ten heat pumps, the largest size available. Cosun Beet Company buys green electricity for this purpose. The electricity connection will be doubled.
The heart of the factory
The effect on the production process is radical. By working with heat pumps, the crystallization of sugar can no longer take place in batches; it has to be done continuously. Bas: ‘The crystallization process is the core of our factories. Making that adjustment will impact everything. We have to replace about a quarter of the installations and re-optimize the entire automation system. This is both very exciting, but inevitable.’
40 per cent less CO2
In 2027-2029, V-RISE will be ready at the sugar factory in Vierverlaten. A few years later, the factory in Dinteloord will also be running in this way. ‘We are going to consume 50 per cent less gas. CO2 emissions from the factories will drop by 40 per cent compared with 2018’, says Bas.
‘A modification of this kind requires an investment amounting to tens of millions of euros. Fortunately, the Dutch government also sees V-RISE’s potential for CO2 reduction. A VEKI-grant has been awarded for part of the investment in Vierverlaten. The reduced gas consumption and lower level of emissions will save us 10 million euros a year on the purchase of natural gas and emission rights. The investment can be recouped within ten years.’