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Quad-generation puts the fizz into Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola Hellenic’s pilot CHP plant built in 2006 in Hungary

We are familiar with trigeneration technology, but Coca-Cola Hellenic is part way through a programme of building, with ContourGlobal, 18 ‘quad-generation’ plants to supply power, heat, cooling and carbon dioxide to its bottling plants in Europe and Nigeria. Jens Rupp tells the story.

In an innovative partnership, Coca-Cola Hellenic and ContourGlobal are building combined heat and power units across the beverage manufacturer’s territories in Europe and Nigeria. The partnership aims to build 20 CHP units by 2015 and is the biggest multinational energy-saving project in the beverage industry. The project has also pioneered ‘quad-generation’ technology to recover carbon dioxide for industrial use.

Coca-Cola Hellenic’s rationale for the programme was simple. By focusing on energy saving initiatives, the firm had already improved its energy efficiency by almost one quarter since 2004.

Nevertheless, the company was expanding and sales were growing fast. As the urgency of climate action became more apparent, a transformational approach was required. Coca-Cola Hellenic needed to continue to grow its business without increasing its carbon footprint. A fundamental change was needed to the way the company used power, heating and cooling. The ambitious CHP programme will reduce Coca-Cola Hellenic’s carbon dioxide emissions by 25%, compared with 2004. Following a successful pilot constructed in Hungary, the initiative was launched in 2008 by the then European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen. Today, the programme is the cornerstone of Coca-Cola Hellenic’s strategy to address climate change.

Four CHP units are already operational in bottling plants across Ireland, Italy, Hungary and Romania. A further 14 units are under construction or in development across the company’s business, from Nigeria to Russia. Two are currently on hold until local framework conditions improve and move the projects back into economical feasibility.

HOW IT WORKS

Although the precise design of each CHP unit is based on the local bottling plant’s needs, the basics remain the same. At its core, several gas turbines generate electricity to be used by the bottling plant, plus any additional electricity delivered to the grid. By capturing and reusing heat from this power generation, the CHP unit provides steam to the bottling operation to produce hot water for manufacturing and sanitation, as well as chilled water for refrigeration and air conditioning.

It is the fourth function of the CHP unit – the capture of carbon dioxide for reuse – that is the most innovative feature. Instead of being emitted to the atmosphere, the recovered carbon dioxide is filtered and purified to the highest food-grade standard, which can be used in beverage carbonation, providing the fizz in sparkling drinks. Technically, up to 95% of the carbon dioxide can be recovered, although economic considerations often limit this to about 40%.

By installing a basic CHP unit, a Coca-Cola Hellenic bottling plant reduces its carbon emissions by 40%. By recovering carbon dioxide, the plant’s emissions can fall by a further 40%. In fact, Coca-Cola Hellenic’s CHP units are so efficient that the company provides excess electricity to the national grid and even sells its high-quality carbon dioxide for medical use.

Coca-Cola Hellenic’s CHP units are currently powered by natural gas. Although this is still a fossil fuel, it is cleaner than the coal and other fuels still used in some countries to generate electricity. In the future, the company hopes to switch to biogas, where feasible, making its CHP units carbon neutral. At present, sustainable local supplies of biogas have not been identified.

BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES

In addition to reducing the company’s carbon footprint, the CHP programme brings other important benefits to Coca-Cola Hellenic. A major advantage is the improved availability and reliability of power and carbon dioxide supplies. In addition, CHP can lead to significant cost savings, while protecting against public utility price increases. During 2010, Coca-Cola Hellenic saved about €6 million (US$8.6 million) in energy costs. In addition, the company can potentially earn revenue from sales of excess electricity, carbon dioxide and carbon credits.

An innovative business model meant that Coca-Cola Hellenic realized these benefits without upfront investment. Under the agreement, ContourGlobal plans, finances, constructs and operates the CHP units. Coca-Cola Hellenic commits to buy energy from ContourGlobal, allowing the latter to access the capital needed until break-even – its investment is repaid by the energy price margin. After 10 to 12 years, ownership is transferred to Coca-Cola Hellenic.

Inevitably, the programme has involved challenges. There have been administrative delays and legal hurdles. Given the innovative nature of the programme, the legal framework was often unclear and untested. This has been particularly true in certain developing and emerging markets, where several units are considerably delayed.

There have also been teething problems in the management of the project. Pioneering technology by its nature means that contractors and subcontractors lack experience in the specifics of the project. After the initial units became operational, the concept was refined and certain design features were changed.

The volatility of energy prices and feed-in tariffs poses another challenge. The company’s future energy needs are uncertain, too, since they are linked to production volume. As a result, the payback period of some units is difficult to ascertain.

Despite these challenges, Coca-Cola Hellenic remains committed to the programme. In fact, the company announced in 2010 that it would step up its original commitment from 15 CHP units to 20. On completion, the programme will cut carbon emissions from manufacturing by more than 250,000 tonnes each year. As a result, the company has committed to further reduce emissions by a further 25% compared to 2004.

In the longer term, Coca-Cola Hellenic expects to expand the programme even further, implementing CHP units wherever economical across its 28 countries of operation.

PART OF A BROADER CLIMATE STRATEGY

Although the CHP programme is the centrepiece of Coca-Cola Hellenic’s climate strategy, the company is undertaking a raft of other initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in every part of its business. These range from a new programme to implement solar (photovoltaic) panels on bottling plant rooftops to a comprehensive fleet strategy and a Green IT initiative across the entire business. Setting the business on a low-carbon growth path is a clear priority for Coca-Cola Hellenic. By 2020, the company aims to avoid more than 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Coca-Cola Hellenic’s greatest climate impact lies not in its own operations, however, but in its value chain. These indirect carbon dioxide emissions are more than six times greater than emissions from company operations. As a result, the company has also worked hard to reduce its wider carbon footprint, working with suppliers to develop climate-friendly refrigeration, for example. By replacing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs, which contribute to global warming) with natural refrigerant gases such as hydrocarbons (HCs) and by using intelligent energy management devices, Coca-Cola Hellenic helps its business customers reduce energy use of coolers by up to two thirds.

Similarly, the company works with suppliers and recyclers to reduce the climate impact of beverage packaging.

As a founding signatory of the United Nations Global Compact’s Caring for Climate initiative, Coca-Cola Hellenic has also committed to promoting climate action and clean energy technologies. The opening ceremony for each CHP unit is used as a platform to communicate the urgency of climate action and to showcase clean energy technologies. At the opening of the Ploeisti CHP unit in Romania, for example, internationally noted climate expert Professor Geoffrey Boulton addressed an audience of local government, customers, suppliers, NGOs, employees and others. In the Italian plant of Nogara, an environmental roundtable discussion was held.

The programme has been widely communicated at international level, too. When Her Majesty the Queen toured the new CHP unit in Northern Ireland, Coca-Cola Hellenic generated international media coverage about the clean energy technology. The company also shared its programme at CSR Europe’s Enterprise 2020 Marketplace event in Brussels, the leading European business network for sustainability, where it was the only non-alcoholic beverage company invited to do so, and presented it at COGEN Europe’s 2011 Annual Conference.

As a result, Coca-Cola Hellenic’s CHP programme has gained recognition. The company was a finalist in the Platts 2010 Global Energy Industry Awards. In Romania, Coca-Cola Hellenic was named business with the most reduced impact on the environment (Business Review Investment Awards Gala); while in Ireland, the company received an energy efficiency award from Sustainable Ireland.

Jens Rupp is the sustainability manager at the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, Switzerland. Email: jens.rupp@cchellenic.com

This article is available on-line. Please visit www.cospp.com

The location of completed and proposed CHP units

Coca-Cola Hellenic

Coca-Cola Hellenic is one of the world's largest bottlers of products of The Coca-Cola Company, with annual sales of more than two billion unit cases. The company has operations in 28 countries and serves a population of approximately 560 million people. Since 2008, Coca-Cola Hellenic has been listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (World and STOXX), placing the company among the top 10% of companies for sustainability worldwide.

ContourGlobal

ContourGlobal develops and operates electric and combined heat and power businesses around the world for governments and multinational companies. The company focuses on high-growth, under-served markets and innovative niches within developed markets such as renewable energy and CHP.

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling facility near Bucharest, Romania

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