Biomass potential to cut energy footprint huge, says Buhler

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fossil fuel

Biomass materials such as cocoa shells can be used as new, cost effective sources of energy for chocolate processors aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, claims Buhler.

Thomas Bischof, product marketing manager at Buhler Chocolate & Cocoa, speaking at the Pro Sweets trade show forum last week, maintains that switching to biomass materials from fossil fuels offers huge potential to processors in terms of cost savings.

The equipment and technology supplier offers a consultancy service to cocoa, nut and chocolate producers in relation to making their plants more energy efficient.

Bischof told that developing an alternative heat source for the cost intensive cocoa bean roasting process such as the use of steam generated from cocoa shell biomass can result in actual savings of €300,000 to €500,000 a year compared to the capacity of the line.

Moreover, he claims, using technology such as a SeedMaster for tempering chocolate allows chocolate manufacturers to directly deposit the overflow from the wet shell process and means only one third of the chocolate mass needs to be tempered, giving processors payback within a three year timeframe and savings of at least €60,000.

Food processors are facing increasing pressure to seek alternative energy sources to drive greater cost efficiency in their operations and meet targets to cut carbon emissions as the political imperative to encourage companies to make the transition to a low carbon economy gathers momentum.

Indeed, Ireland introduced a carbon tax in the December 2009 budget, which will impact on all stages of food production, with a similar move from France expected soon.

Bischof cautions though that it is critical an holistic approach is taken to the reduction of the energy footprint within a plant, and he stresses that manufacturers should acquire a clear picture of how the various processes interlink before attempting any heat recapture methods or the reuse of waste to generate heat within the plant.

He said that Buhler Chocolate & Cocoa has devised models detailing a typical chocolate processing plant that show what is going in and what is going out to help optimise the use of energy in the facility.

According to Bischof, the Buhler team rely on the Pinch analysis method, which is derived from the chemcial industry and is supported by the Swiss Department of Energy. He explained that the method enables the team to assess which of the typical processes in a facility can be combined.

He stresses, though, that any attempt at optimisation of energy efficiency within a chocolate processing plant must ensure that the aroma and flavour of the product are maintained so that the quality of the end product is not affected. "This is one of the main factors that informs our thinking when devising ways of saving money in terms of generating energy differently,"​ he added.

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