For now, all you see next to the brick building is a road, its path intersected by the shadow of the 105-meter-high chimney. A low hum can be heard outside the power plant where Symrise has been producing steam for its production facilities for almost 70 years. This already efficient plant will function at a much more sustainable level starting in 2016. When that day arrives, a new energy supply system will be located where that factory road heading east is currently located.
Planning for the new power plant began in 2014. It will operate on the principle of cogeneration and generate electricity in addition to steam. “We need about 56,000 kWh to power the factory. Once this plant is up and running, we will be producing two-thirds of that ourselves.” The sophisticated new system will run more energy-efficiently, more cost-effectively and environmentally friendlier in other areas as well.
“We will reduce our CO2 emissions by about 31,000 tons per year – a 40 % reduction,” says Andreas Pohl. The experienced electrical engineer, who has been with Symrise since 2002 and is now head of the Energy Supply and Infrastructure department at its subsidiary Tesium, is happy to explain how these optimizations are going to be made. But first, a little background information: At the moment, the system consists of three boilers with two burners for each boiler. The main boiler from 1975 produces 27 tons of steam every hour, which is subsequently transported to the production facilities at the Weser plant through kilometers of piping. Two other devices from 1957 and 1982, each the size of a house, are only turned on to meet spikes in demand. Together with the boiler house at the Solling plant, Symrise could theoretically power 5,400 households and thereby supply heat to nearly the entire city of Holzminden. The technology generating all of this heat has been operating for years now. In 2013, the main boiler was taken offline due to damage. The two replacement boilers and a rented boiler system were able to cover the company’s needs for the meantime. “Had we wanted to completely overhaul the system, the costs would have been much higher than simply building a new system – particularly in connection with the benefits of generating our own electricity,” explains Andres Pohl.
That is why Symrise chose to build a new system with the latest sustainable technology. “We are working with the most environmentally friendly fossil fuel, namely natural gas,” explains Jens Leßmann. “We burn it to power a gas turbine. That turbine generates electricity and heats water into steam with its exhaust.” The project engineer is pleased with the blueprints laid out in front of him. “This design will allow us to achieve an efficiency rate of about 90 %, which is an incredibly effective use of the energy provided by the natural gas.”
Replacing technology sounds relatively simple. In reality, however, the opposite is true. Leßmann explains what still needs to be done while standing at the construction site directly next to the old power plant. Following the planning phase, the wastewater plumbing and high voltage power lines that are buried underground will need to be rerouted. Part of an old hall that is no longer in use will be torn down. “Once that is finished, we will build the new power plant, which will be housed in a massive building made with reinforced concrete,” explains Jens Leßmann. The next step is described by the engineer in the most drastic terms: “Open heart surgery. We are implementing this new system while the existing system is still operating. It’s a huge challenge because we cannot interrupt the processes,” says Leßmann. “By the time our annual three-day plant shutdown comes in October 2015, we need to have everything ready to go for connecting the new plant with the various systems.” He grins, as this will require much more planning and labor than he can describe.
It includes, for instance, connecting the water treatment plumbing that Symrise uses to treat the water that is pumped from the Holzminde and Dürre Holzminde streams as well as five company-owned wells. The pipes for the steam and, due to the cogeneration capabilities, the lines for the electricity also have to be prepared. In total, there are about 25 connections that Andreas Pohl and his colleagues have to bear in mind. “In addition to all that, the site will then be connected to the natural gas pipeline. We’ve been working with natural gas for a long time in Solling,” explains the Head of Energy Supply. A further advantage of the conversion: The old system required a tanker truck to deliver oil to the factory each day. This new system will reduce traffic substantially. “With the new power plant, we are very well-positioned for the future,” says Andreas Pohl. “The effort is going to pay off in every way.”
in the Lab“
Sylvia Barnekow heads a team of nine that comprises the Food Science & Application Technology department in Research. In our interview, she explains how clever concepts save time and costs while also benefiting mankind and the environment.
Ms. Barnekow, why are you baking mini cakes in your lab?
Because we are testing one of the new products in our SymLife® portfolio – and also taste-testing it. We are using new natural substances in these products; substances that help to reduce sugar, salt, or in the case of these mini cakes, fat. We also want them to have their full flavor.
What is your motivation for this approach?
We want to increase efficiency. And that begins in the lab. That is why we are building on innovative products and processes that work on numerous levels. The mini cakes are an example for how the food industry can reduce the use of fats. Trans fatty acids are considered unhealthy. They are said to contribute to obesity. SymLife® products that reduce the fats in food can also help conserve natural resources. And finally, our customers save money in production because they need to use fewer expensive raw materials like fat.
How is the fat reduced?
With SymLife® Fat, we looked at how fat is perceived in our mouths, which takes place on five levels. In addition to the smell and the overall texture that the mouth perceives, the papillae on the tongue also perceive a sort of microtexture. Research is still focusing on evaluating the mechanisms of feeling satiated. Also interesting is how heat is drawn out in the mouth, which is shown by the different ways that the fats, which are often polymorphic, melt. Chilled butter melting, for example, feels very different to eating margarine. All of those things pulled together allow us to create the complete taste of fat. We have already brought products to the market in the Snacks area; it is currently being developed for baked goods and milk products.
Unlike fats, costs are not as relevant with salt. It only costs food manufacturers nine cents a kilogram. Why are you addressing it anyway?
Consumers eat one and a half times more salt than they should. That’s bad for their health, according to numerous studies. As a result, the industry is under obligation in countries like England, South Africa, Canada and Australia to significantly reduce the amount of salt in ready-made products.
Why don’t the manufacturers just leave out the salt altogether?
It’s not that easy. Table salt plays a lot of different roles in the end product. For example, it acts as a preservative in ketchup and stabilizes proteins in bread. And often the product just doesn’t taste as good without salt. That is why we have to compensate for the reduction in salt in different ways. We can use similar, corresponding flavors that replicate the natural flavor of the food. Another approach is to adapt the morphological structure of the salt by creating larger crystal surfaces or physically changing it. That way we increase the seasoning effect in dry applications. In addition, substitutes such as potassium chloride have been used for decades, although they have a bitter aftertaste. We have found solutions that mask this taste.
New products are one way – can you also increase efficiency in the process technology?
We developed the SymAger® for testing purposes. It significantly shortens the aging process in foods. That allows us to simulate storage times of one year in two days, for example.
How does the technology behind that work?
We put the flavor or the food in a temperature-controlled pressure unit and create different gas atmospheres depending on the application, just like they are used in the food industry. Just as in the natural aging process, in this system different reactions are occurring at the same time, such as oxidation, the Maillard reaction or even acetal and ester formations, which change how the sample tastes. If we want to show how long a product with a high amount of unsaturated fatty acids will keep, for example, we can speed up its natural aging. To do that, we create pressure in the air or oxygen atmosphere and can then evaluate the sample later on a sensory and analytic level.
What is the purpose of the SymAger®?
It makes product development a lot faster. We can show that our flavor compositions hold up in the end products even after longer periods of time, whether they remain stable or whether the taste is still the same. That makes developing new flavors and foods a lot more efficient for us and for our customers.