Sustainability in Operations at Glanbia Ireland
Glanbia Ireland has been focused on reducing its energy consumption across its 11 production sites for a considerable time, ever before sustainability came to the fore and terms like carbon neutral and net zero emissions became buzz words in energy reports.
All imported electricity for manufacturing sites is 100% green electricity. Nine out of the eleven GI sites are licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. And ten out the 12 manufacturing facilities are included in the Bord Bia Origin Green programme.
Annual energy savings of €1.25 million have been achieved over the past five years through operational improvements, much of this down to the energy management programme and ongoing efforts to identify plant performance improvements gained through better operational control, minor automation and maintenance improvements. In addition, over €3m of annualized saving have been achieved through capital investment in energy efficiency projects and plant upgrades.
Today, Glanbia Ireland is considered one of the most progressive companies from an energy management perspective in the dairy industry in Ireland. Its dryers and boilers are among the lowest cost per tonne of product of benchmarked data.
Several sites have achieved major efficiency improvements such as Belview and Wexford, both of which were built to the highest possible specifications.
The other major milk and Agri sites have a long history of energy management with ongoing improvements in efficiency and energy performance. Significant improvements are also being made across sites in terms of water and waste water levels, general waste and more.
Achieving carbon reductions is no easy task. Glanbia Ireland’s four ingredients plants consume a staggering 96% of GI’s total thermal energy and 64% of the total electrical energy– primarily because they are drying product. Liquid milk and Agri milling plants are less energy intensive but still use significant energy and require continuous investment.
Attention to detail and employee practices are having an impact with industrial energy efficiency experts, EM3, describing Glanbia Ireland as “one of the most mature companies from an Energy Management perspective in the dairy industry in Ireland.”
Utilities Excellence & Sustainability Manager, John Finlay, is proud of the efficiencies achieved but says a big issue for Glanbia Ireland and its competitors is fuel used on site whether that is transport fuel or the fuel needed for manufacturing as there isn’t a viable alternative available yet to the lowest carbon option for powering process plants at present, which is natural gas. Renewable alternatives to natural gas are currently being developed and assessed and hopefully these will be available in the future to reduce carbon emissions.
“It’s going to be quite challenging for operations to meet the targets we’ve set out in our own sustainability statement and we will need a renewable energy source. Much of the processing technology available to us has helped us improve our energy performance but for energy intensive processes like drying, the technology hasn’t changed much. This will be a challenge for us and for our competitors.
“Ireland has been proactive in terms of the development of wind for energy. But on the thermal side, there have been less support initiatives. Other countries have supports in place for biogas etc. Ireland remains focused on renewable electricity. We will need to invest in more renewable alternatives such as biogas and bio methane. But at present these are significantly more expensive than natural gas,” he said.