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The Viscofan Group is the world leader in casings for meat products and has a presence in more than 100 countries. This successful business story first installed a cogeneration plant in 1993, in Caseda [Navarra], which was then enlarged in 2008. Cogenerators allow the company to maintain a constant stream of energy, which is key to the operational needs of the business.
Viscofan is very much committed to pursuing SDG 12, 8, and 13. To enact on their commitment, they have been investing to improve the firm's efficiency, energy generators, and have been looking to use better liquid combustibles, such as green-hydrogen. By doing so, they will be polluting less, using energy in a much more efficient manner and thus, contribute to stopping climate change as much as possible.
Hence, in 1993 Viscofan decided to use cogenerators to produce thermal and electrical energy. These motors would help the company have constant energy without altering the productive activities: Production and Consumption responsible; exactly what SDG 12 is about. Moreover, the firm also pursues SDG 8 through its economic growth. The business has grown dramatically alongside with its electric and hydric efficiency as will be shown below. They have also hired many new employees, in a non-discriminating way, and training them as well as they can.
Cogeneration helps reduce costs as well as CO2 emissions, which align with the firm's goals to tackle SDG 13 - reduce climate change. Currently, as is stated above, cogeneration has a global efficiency of about 75%. By contrast, conventional thermoelectric plants have a global efficiency of about 45%.
According to Viscofan’s 2020 Annual Report, Energy Consumption (in GWh/Meters of meat-casing produced) decreased by 6% in 2020 compared to results in 2018.
Overall, Viscofan estimated that over the last 10 years, The Viscofan Group avoided emitting more than 1 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, mainly due to cogeneration. This has a big impact on climate change, as less CO2 means the better the atmosphere.
Since Viscofan’s 2018 Sustainability Action Plan was created, the firm has invested 4.2 million at the Caseda plant to acquire new cogenerators and boilers that are capable of using green-hydrogen. This is something no other firm in their industry has tried to do, and for this reason, Viscofan is leading the meat-casing industry’s transition towards renewables.
Moreover, in Viscofan’s pursuit of SDG 13 (climate action), they have been aiming to reduce the tons of CO2/meters by 30% by 2030. Each cubic meter of natural gas that is substituted with green-hydrogen would reduce CO2 emissions by 2.15 kg.
Lastly, despite there being many ways to get hydrogen, Viscofan wants obtain it in a clean and sustainable way (committing to SDG 13), hence the "green-hydrogen".
The inspiration for the implementation and development of this technology came from the need for a more sustainable way of operating the business. It was a no-brainer. It is for this reason – the need for a more sustainable way of production – that they decided to find a more energy efficient way of producing the energy that they needed for their operating activities. This led to the use of cogeneration power plants, and the installation of the biggest cogeneration power plant in Navarra. More so, as is stated in their website (home > sustainability > our commitment to SDG > SDG 13):
“In our fight against climate change, we are continuously investing in improvements to reduce energy consumption and to make the most of the different ways in which this energy is present in our processes.”
By doing so, Viscofan was able to produce energy in a much more efficient way, since these plants make use of both thermal and electrical energy – thus making use of the thermal energy that would have otherwise been wasted. By the same token, they were able to reduce their carbon footprint and emissions.
The overall impact of the innovation is a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and cost of electricity, while maintaining a reliable and constant supply of energy. As for now, Viscofan has a 48MW cogeneration plant in Caseda [Spain], a 8.7 MW plant in Weinheim [Germany] and a recently removed 0.6 MW turbine in Mexico. In 2020, 100% of the energy acquired in Caseda [Spain] and San Luis Potosi [Mexico] came from renewable sources. Overall, 34% of the 359G wh of energy acquired by Viscofan in 2020 came from renewables or highly efficient cogeneration plants.
As stated above, the cogeneration plants have allowed Viscofan to cut CO2 emissions (in tons) by 90,449 in 2020, 90,531 in 2019 and 91,750 in 2018. Moreover, it has been estimated that the cumulative amount of CO2 emissions avoided for the past 10 years is nearly 1 million tons. Such numbers were calculated estimating the tons of CO2 that would have been emitted in order to obtain the vapor that is currently obtained with the cogeneration plants, had other traditional boilers been used (instead of the cogeneration plants). This demonstrates Viscofan’s commitment toward SDG 13.
Moreover, Viscofan is also committed to SDG 12 amongst others, as stated in their website (home > sustainability > our commitment to SDG > SDG 12):
Within its commitment to this SDG Viscofan seeks:
• To promote energy efficiency throughout the value chain, developing packaging that minimizes waste generation - such as gas emissions and wastewater generation, among others - during manufacturing and subsequent processing.
• A production policy in proximity through a production presence of up to 22 factories, contributing to reducing the impact of transportation on the environment.
At Viscofan there are many innovative technologies happening at once: cogeneration, new production lines for cellulose and fibrous casings (at the Caseda plant), and new production line with dry-tech technology, collagen casings that have a lower water requirement, and a reduction of their plastic casings' thickness that contributes to a 5.1% reduction in tons of plastic waste. For this reason, it is very difficult if not impossible to single out the impact of cogeneration plants alone.
Nonetheless, there are many 2020 statistics available at their website that show the rapid pace at which the company is expanding (home > about Viscofan > key figures):
• 912Mn. in Revenue (+7.4% vs 2019)
• 234Mn. EBITDA (+16.7% vs 2019)
• 122Mn. Net Profit (+16.0% vs 2019)
• 38Mn. in Net Bank Debt (-10.2% vs 2019)
• 100%: Suppliers of cellulose and abaca paper with sustainable forestry certificates, PFEC or FSC
• 4967 average workforce (+7.3% vs 2019)
• 21 hours of training by employee
• 9Mn. of investment in environmental projects
• 90: Tons of landfill waste / Meters of produced casings. Base 100 year 2018
• 94: CO2 emissions / Meters of produced casings. Base 100 year 2018
Lastly, it is estimated that during the last 10 years and due to energy optimization processes used by Viscofan, a million CO2 tons of emissions have been avoided.
The aforementioned innovation benefits society in many ways. One of them is the reduction of CO2 emissions, which is currently the primary driver of global climate change. As such, it is widely considered that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, CO2 emissions need to be reduced as soon as possible. Therefore, by making use of such power plants, Viscofan is not only committed to reduce such emissions, but it has actually taken action to do so. Apart from the obvious benefits to the environment, another benefit for society is the improvement of air quality, caused by a reduction of CO2 emissions. This can result in a reduction of deaths due to air pollution and can also help to ease pressure on the healthcare systems.
Lastly, additional environmental and social benefits include the aforementioned 2020 statistics available at Viscofan’s website. For this reason, it is clear that these innovations promote SDGs: 8, 12 and 13.
Pedro Eraso, Skinless Corporate Manager