Lindt trials chocolate-powered fuel

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate Theobromine Hot chocolate

Lindt trials chocolate-powered fuel
The chocolate maker Lindt is teaming up with a power plant in the hope of using cocoa shells, which are a by-product from its processing facilities, to produce ‘green’ fuel.

Lindt USA is in collaboration with the Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) to test a new fuel mix combining the coal PSNH normally burns at its Schiller Station in Portsmouth, with the new ingredient of cocoa bean shells.

Currently, Lindt & Sprungli subsidiaries in Europe process the chocolate that Lindt USA uses. The chocolate is shipped in the form of huge blocks across the Atlantic to its Stratham facility in New Hampshire.

However, Lindt USA will eventually import the beans directly from source and produce its own chocolate from raw cocoa beans at Stratham, managing the chocolate-making process from raw material to final product.

A Lindt spokesperson told “The US bean roasting plant extension will be in operation by Spring 2010 and will be utilized to meet all of Lindt USA’s domestically produced chocolate needs.”

The test burn at Schiller will determine the feasibility of putting the shells that are a by-product from this facility into use as a fuel source.

Thomas Linemayr, Lindt USA’s president and CEO, said: “Not only would it be a quick, local solution for disposing of a by-product, but it would afford us another opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint as we bring our chocolate production in-house.”

Although shells from some competitors are reused as garden mulch, Linemayr said that the company is not aware of any other cocoa-bean-shell-to-energy projects in the US chocolate industry.

Companies are starting to take another look at waste as by-products from food production pose a major problem to industry and disposal can be costly.

At the same time scientific studies have previously suggested that cocoa husks, a by-product of cocoa processing, could be used as an ingredient in food.

Researchers have shown that the husks may offer an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient source of pectin for food, which is an alternative to sourcing the ingredient from citrus peel and apple pomace.

And a separate study found that the husks could offer a valuable source of dietary fibre for the low-calorie food segment. In addition to being rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, the husks also contain antioxidant compounds that open up possibilities for health and presevatives.

Lindt’s European office was unable to give any indication of current uses for its waste cocoa shells or whether there were plans for a similar fuel initiative in Europe.

Similarly, Lindt USA would not discuss specifics regarding its cocoa shell volume, or if the cocoa shells could potentially help power its own plant.

Nor would it say if it was able to generate income from the cocoa shells, if used for fuel.

However the spokesperson added: “Lindt and PSNH are in the initial, fact-finding stage to determine the feasibility of burning cocoa shells in their facility.”

Green power

The Schiller Station produces electric power and the state of New Hampshire has designated cocoa bean shells as biomass.

PSNH said the addition of cocoa bean shells to its fuel mix is not expected to bring any significant changes to the Schiller Station, as the ratio of shells to coal is so small at about one-part shells to 33-parts coal.

However, the company sees it as another opportunity to expand its green-energy repertoire.

Schiller Station manager Dick Despins, said: “If all goes well with the test, our collaboration with Lindt will allow us to replace a portion of coal with a portion of biomass, and each step we take toward replacing a fossil fuel with green power is a step in the right direction.”

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