New small-scale combined heat and power unit: 40 Cylinders for Bernburg Plant

The esco salt company in Bernburg has installed a particularly environmentally friendly energy system, a state-of-the-art small-scale combined heat and power unit (CHP). The esco and Avacon Natur GmbH joint project supplies additional energy and will reduce the consumption of the current primary energy source, natural gas, by almost 30 per cent.

Jointly pressing the "go-live" button: Andreas Horn (Vice President Operations esco), esco Plant Manager Dr. Markus Cieslik, Dr. Stephan Tenge (CEO of Avacon) Alfred Schaper (CEO of Avacon Natur)

"This economical and highly efficient use of the valuable resource natural gas not only reduces the environmental burden by around 6,500 tons of carbon every year and therefore helps to protect the climate," Dr. Markus Cieslik, Plant Manager of the Bernburg plant, said when he officially commissioned the system together with Avacon CEO Dr. Stephan Tenge. "It also reduces our 'energy bill' and therefore increases our competitiveness – that is what sustainable business management looks like at esco."

Avacon and its predecessor companies have successfully cooperated with the K+S Group and esco for decades, as mining companies and energy suppliers have one thing in common: their business activities are based on long-term investments. However, as the technical developments are constantly progressing and the framework conditions change regularly, both types of enterprise need permanent improvement processes. "We are delighted that we have been able to further expand and intensify our cooperation with our project partner esco through this innovative CHP project," stated Alfred Schaper, the Avacon Natur GmbH CEO. "The excellent teamwork with our customer made it possible to plan and build the CHP unit in record time, even before the energy law framework conditions for CHP units changed."

Natural gas is used efficiently

The unit, which was built on the esco Bernburg plant premises in less than eleven months, consists of two natural gas powered engines with impressive performance specifications: with 40 cylinders and a more than 120 litre capacity, they are generating a total of 3 megawatts of electric power and 3 megawatts of heat. This annual volume of electric power alone would be enough to supply electricity to 6,000 homes. Whilst the generators that are connected to the system produce the electricity, half of the heat that is generated comes from engine cooling and the other half comes from the residual heat of the emissions. It is fed into the supply system in the form of steam and hot water.

The combination of power and heat generation makes it possible to make almost full use of the primary energy source natural gas. With an efficiency of more than 86 per cent, the CHP unit far surpasses conventional systems that cannot recover heat. For comparison: the efficiency of gas fueled power plants is less than 50 per cent; lignite fueled power plants achieve approx. 44 per cent, and nuclear power plants around 33 per cent.

Thanks to this high efficiency, the new CHP unit meets the criteria for a "high efficiency cogeneration unit" under Germany's Combined Heat and Power Act (KWKG). The energy efficiency increase that results from the installation of the unit is therefore a particularly suitable measure for meeting the targets set throughout the K+S Group with regard to energy management certification according to the DIN EN ISO 50001 standard.

The technical and financial concept of the CHP unit in Bernburg has already been successfully realised by Avacon Natur in a comparable project in the sugar industry. To a considerable extent, it was therefore possible to apply the experiences gained in the course of this project to the complex CHP project in Bernburg. Due to the good financial framework conditions and the almost identical technical concept of the reference facility, esco decided to charge Avacon Natur with the construction and operation of a CHP unit in Bernburg.

As Avacon Natur maintains CHP unit purchasing framework agreements, they were able to source the unit components very quickly and without new time consuming supplier tenders, and were therefore able to guarantee esco a short overall project realization time.

About esco and the Bernburg saltworks

esco – european salt company is the biggest European supplier of salt  products and part of the global production network of the Salt Business Unit of K+S Group with production sites in Europe and the Americas. With an annual production capacity of approximately 9.7 million tons of crystallized salt and salt in brine, esco offers its customers a comprehensive range of high-quality salt products including salt for chemical use, industrial as well as pharma and food-grade salts, and de-icing salt for winter road service. Headquartered in Hanover, Germany, the company operates a total of approximately 20 production sites and sales offices in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

With a production capacity of around 2.8 million tons of rock and evaporated salt as well as 1.4 million tons of brine salt, the Bernburg plant is esco's largest production site in Germany. Besides food-grade, feed and industrial salts, the range of products produced there also includes above all de-icing salts and water softening products. The plant, which employs around 430 people, can now look back on a history of over 100 years.

About Avacon Natur

Avacon Natur helps private and business customers, industrial companies and municipal services to implement future-proof energy solutions. For this purpose, the company, which is wholly owned by Avacon, develops decentral energy solutions that make ecological and economic sense and are customised to meet the specific needs of each particular customer. They include innovative technologies such as CHP units, the use of renewable energies or the needs-based supply of heat, cooling, pressurised air, steam or electricity.

Avacon Natur is an ISO 14001, DIN ISO 50001 and OHSAS 18001 standard certified company. An important aim of the DIN ISO 50001 standard is the continuous improvement of the energy performance and the energy efficiency and the realisation of energy savings. This is achieved through a systematic approach that has led to the establishment of effective internal systems and processes that allow Avacon Natur to make a major contribution to the protection of the environment and the climate, not least through the permanent reduction of carbon emissions.