Boiler heats up Sasko savings

Boiler heats up Sasko savings

A two-year partnership paid off when Sustainable Heating and the Industrial Development Corporation opened an environmentally efficient boiler at the Sasko Bakery in Cape Town.

CEO of Sustainable Heating, Paul Gorremans, and Lizeka Matsheka, the head of the IDC's Green Industries strategic business unitMost companies are not interested in being green, but are interested in savings, according to Paul Gorremans, the founder and chief executive officer of Sustainable Heating.

His interest lay in both – saving the environment, saving cash, and saving waste. It is an interest spanning 30 years in the renewable energy sector, prompted by the oil crisis of 1973, when as a child he realised that fossil fuels were a finite resource. More than four decades later, he was joined at the Sasko Bakery in Kenilworth, Cape Town, by Industrial Development Corporation representatives and a sizeable group of officials to mark the opening of the Sustainable Heating boiler for Sasko, the bread group in the Pioneer Foods stable.

It is their second venture following the opening of a boiler at Sasko’s bakery in Shakaskraal in Durban. Both operations were funded by the IDC through its partnership with Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the French public development finance institution.

The Shakaskraal factory is the most modern industrial bakery in South Africa, with a capacity to produce more than 13 000 loaves of bread an hour, or 3.5 a second, 24/7.

At the opening in Cape Town were Lizeka Matsheka, the head of the IDC’s Green Industries strategic business unit (SBU); Martha Stein-Sochas, the regional head of the AFD; Alan Winde, the provincial minister of economic opportunities; Jenny Cargill, the special adviser to the premier of the Western Cape; Belgian consul Gerard Uytterhage; and French consul Xavier d’Argoeuves. The new boiler began operating on 10 May.

Speaking on the sidelines, Matsheka said the IDC was excited to be involved as the project covered many of the corporation’s strategic objectives, such as the commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The SBU had invested R14-billion in the renewable energy sector since it started in 2011, of which R12-million was invested in this venture. “It shows we can co-exist with the industry.”

The IDC’s Bouwer van Niekerk, who originated the deal two years ago, said it was a good pipeline to see the project through from concept to realisation, and knowing that “we played an important role in this”.

Stein-Sochas explained that the AFD’s mandate in South Africa was to support the transition of the economy to green and sustainable, and so support the fight against climate change. “This plant is a great alternative to fuel combustion. It has great potential to scale up and be replicated in other parts of South Africa.”

Homegrown design

Gorremans said: “The first drafts of plans and concepts of this boiler were made about three years ago and after visiting a lot of sites and boiler houses in Europe we came up with our own design combining different concepts together.”

Sustainable Heating is a heating solutions company that uses renewable energy sources to provide steam. It works with clients to help them reduce their heating costs as well as their carbon footprint and, by doing so, become more sustainable and profitable. The company has a unique model of selling heat energy to medium scale industries. It designs and builds, owns and operates the relevant equipment, rather than the traditional model of selling equipment. As the owner of the boiler, it is in charge of the maintenance and the operation, and supplies the steam under a long-term agreement with the client.

Using woodchip to create steam was another cost saving, as wood was 15% cheaper than oil. This increased benefits to clients such as Sasko: it did not invest in boiler machinery, rather using its cash to invest in bakery machinery, it saved money on fuel costs, and it reduced its carbon emissions.

No smoke is seen escaping from the chimney, even though the boiler burns 400m3 of wood a month. In addition, the ash waste is minimal: from 1 700m3 of wood chip, just 4.1m3 of ash is produced. Finally, the boiler can be controlled remotely from a laptop or smartphone application. “I can change air-flows, control moving grids and a lot more even if I’m in Europe,” said Gorremans.

The machines need to produce steam 24/7, without interruption. If there is no steam, there is no bread. Allowing a team to control or trouble shoot remotely means there is little to no downtime when a problem arises.

Wood from waste

The woodchip fuel used by Sustainable Heating comes from waste from sawmills and pallet manufactures or other industry that the group chips down to the right size. It has long-term agreements for its supply. It has its own chipping plant in Fesantakraal, and in time, it will look at establishing its own plantations of fast-growing trees to provide feed stock.

Wood is considered a carbon neutral fuel as the carbon emitted through the chimney stack is reintegrated in the soil by the cultured forests. Wood is readily available in South Africa and the group signs long-term agreements to use the offcuts of sawmills, pallet making factories, and door or window frame making factories. The wood is untreated, and the carbon emissions are 50% under any South African carbon emission law.

By way of comparison, Winde pointed out that about 20 000 tons of coal was used in boilers in the Western Cape alone in a month. Coal is a finite fossil fuel and a high emitter of toxic emissions.

“We already have a high efficiency but we can and will do better,” said Gorremans. “Our future development is focusing on two things: our electrical consumption is today as little as 7kw an hour to run this whole machinery, and yes we will get it lower with at least one kw an hour for the next boiler house.

Bigger plans

“We have flue gases going out at 150 to 170 degrees into the chimney stack and we are busy designing a system to dry our woodchips from that remaining heat… By using the excess heat to dry the wood chips we can reduce our wood chip consumption by 30% compared to dry wood chips. Less wood chips means less trucks on the road and less carbon emissions and our goal is to be as green as possible.”

To give an idea of the magnitude of the carbon savings on the Shakaskraal project, he said: “If we condensate the carbon savings into liquid carbon and put it in 30-ton trucks that are about 25m long, we count four trucks per 100 metres or 40 trucks per kilometre. The carbon savings at the Sasko Bakery in Shakaskraal would form a stretch of 56.4km truck after truck. It’s more or less the distance between Johannesburg and Pretoria.”

The boiler house is a traditional burden for factories: it is expensive to buy, to maintain, and to operate; the fuel price never ceases to rise and it is a major source of pollution. This is where Sustainable Heating places its innovative thinking: a complete outsourcing of the heat production guaranteeing savings along with carbon emissions reduction.