Tate & Lyle’s plant in Loudon, Tennessee, in one of the company’s two Energy Star-accredited facilities recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a leader in energy efficiency.
When your business revolves around Mother Nature and what she offers, sustainability takes on a whole new meaning.
Such is the case with Tate & Lyle, a leading global producer of food and beverage ingredients – and a company that demonstrates its commitment to sustainability time and time again in all aspects of its business.
“We are acutely aware of the threat posed to the world’s land, water and air by modern day production and consumption,” said Anna Pierce, Director of Sustainability at Tate & Lyle. “In keeping with our purpose we are committed to robust, urgent action backed by science to protect our planet’s resources for the benefit of future generations.”
Anna Pierce, Director of Sustainability, Tate & Lyle.
Tate & Lyle’s sustainability actions involve countless initiatives worldwide to minimize its environmental impact by reducing emissions and using water sustainably. Whether it’s the use of a low-pressure blower instead of a high-pressure compressed air system to save energy, or a \$75 million natural gas-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system to replace coal as a power source at its corn wet mill in Lafayette, Indiana, Tate & Lyle is on a mission to protect the planet.
Improving Lives for Generations
Headquartered in London, England, Tate & Lyle operates more than 20 production facilities globally including six corn wet mills, four of which are located in the United States where much of the company’s production and around half of its employees are based. Its other corn wet mills are located in the Netherlands and Slovakia. Tate & Lyle also operates numerous blending facilities that use ingredients produced by the corn wet mills, as well as other ingredients, to create food solutions for a wide variety of customers.
Tate & Lyle defines its purpose as “Improving Lives for Generations.” To do so, it strives to support healthy living, build thriving communities, and care for the planet. Toward that end, the company is recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability and reduced its Carbon Dioxide Equivalent Emissions (CO2e) by 21.8% since 2008. CO2e is a term used to describe different greenhouse gases in a common unit.
This year, Tate & Lyle analyzed its carbon footprint with the support of an external expert and determined that just under 30% of its carbon emissions are from Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2e emissions, which are classified as energy sources used in or purchased for its facilities. The remainder of its carbon footprint consists of Scope 3 emissions, which are related to its purchase of goods and services (principally corn).
After completing its analysis, Tate & Lyle set new targets based on where it has been and where it believes it should be in 2030 and beyond – and what it will take to get there. In addition to being science-based, its commitments include the following:
- By 2030, it will have delivered a 30% absolute reduction in its Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2e emissions, with an ambition to reach 20% reduction by 2025.
- By 2030, it will have delivered a 15% absolute reduction in its Scope 3 CO2e emissions.
- By 2025, it will eliminate the use of coal as an energy source from all of its operations.
- By 2030, it will reduce water use by 15%.
- By 2030, 100% of its waste will be beneficially used with an ambition to reach 75% by 2025.
Pierce said the company’s aggressive sustainability goals are predicated on the importance of protecting natural resources for the benefit of future generations.
“As we embarked on setting our new climate change, water and waste reduction targets, we kept asking ourselves, “In a decade’s time, will we look back and feel as though we’ve done enough?”
Milling Consumes 30 Trillion BTUs Per Year
A major area where Tate & Lyle has targeted continued to progress in sustainability is at its corn wet mills. Tate & Lyle Global Energy Lead Nick Waibel said the four U.S. corn wet mills alone represent 80% of the company’s energy use. In total, Tate & Lyle grinds the equivalent of 1.5 million acres of corn per year at its six corn wet mills – and in the process – consumes approximately 30 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of energy annually.
“Wet mills are energy- and water-intensive,” Waibel said. “Unlike a dry mill that takes a kernel of corn and grinds it to ferment the mash, a wet mill utilizes additional energy and water to separate that corn kernel into its four different components including starch, fiber, gluten and germ.”
Nick Waibel, Global Energy Lead, Tate & Lyle.
Waibel said Tate & Lyle purchases a mix of natural gas, coal and electricity to power its highly automated corn wet mills, with each mill using an energy scheme best suited to the processes and needs of the operation.
Identifying and implementing initiatives designed to save energy involves each mill working regularly and closely with the corporate energy group on strategic plans aimed at sustainability improvements. Tate & Lyle also conducts energy assessments multiple times per year at its mills and other production plants. To so do, members of the corporate energy team gather with engineers and technical managers at a given mill to assess the operation’s energy usage. Engineers from other mills join the team, as well as employees representing other job functions, including plant operators and area technologists. The strategy is to gather ideas for sustainability from a diverse range of sources – and those who know the plants best, Waibel said.
“A lot of this is driven by the local engineers,” Waibel said. “Efficient energy performance must be driven from the ground up and it must be ingrained in our culture. Our operations teams are very proud of their energy performance and they take a lot of pride in what they do.”
It also helps that the culture at Tate & Lyle encourages ongoing and open communication between plants.
“We’re big enough to have a lot of ability to leverage different experiences and knowledge within the company, yet we’re small enough that we’re a very close-knit group. The plants talk to each other and we have monthly calls about energy and water. So when one engineer implements something successful in on plant, another plant knows it can call that same engineer to help lead them down the right road.”
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“Pinching” Compressed Air Use
"One utility in particular the plants discuss frequently is compressed air, especially given the role it plays in the wet corn mill process and the opportunity for energy savings", Waibel said.
“Compressed air is a very important utility for us, not only for our operations, but also environmentally,” he said. “Our plants are highly automated and we rely on it for controlling a lot of the valves, solenoids and actuators for processes in addition to many other uses. Even when we have annual plant shutdowns with a plant going black on power compressed air is the one utility we don’t shut off, thanks to rental air compressors.”
The compressed air systems at Tate & Lyle are configured to match the needs of each corn wet mill. Most plants use centralized multi-stage centrifugal air compressors in combination with desiccant dryers to supply air at 90-100 psi with pressure dewpoints as low as -40oF. Plants may also use satellite rotary screw air compressors, as well as low-pressure blowers where needed.
In addition to evaluating compressed air systems and their energy consumption regularly and as part of annual energy assessments, Waibel also encourages decision-makers to use the principles of pinch analysis to optimize compressed air systems.
“Pinch analysis is a methodology for minimizing energy consumption by calculating thermodynamically feasible energy targets for processes within a plant,” Waibel said. “The process data is represented as a set of energy streams that are combined into hot and cold composite curves. The 'pinch' identifies the point where the process is energy constrained and we design our heat recovery network around it. It may not be economically feasible to get to ‘perfect’ but it gives you some parameters and a target you can design to. Pinch theory has been ingrained in our culture for over the past 30 years.”
Waibel said that while the teams at Tate & Lyle do not formally use pinch methodology to evaluate compressed air energy use they use it to guide decision-making.
“Compressed air is not quite a pinch scenario, but the principles still apply. You need to supply air at the level for which it needs to be used,” he said. “As an example, we were using higher pressure air compressors for an application that didn’t need that amount of pressure so we installed a blower rated to deliver air at 15 psi, which saved \$30,000 a year.”
Other examples of efforts to reduce compressed air energy consumption abound at Tate & Lyle. An operation in Slovakia recently installed new, more efficient compressors outfitted with Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and it now expects to save one million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
Meanwhile, the company recently approved a multi-million project to upgrade the compressed air system at its corn wet mill in Loudon, Tennessee. The initiative will replace aging air compressors with energy efficient units. The project also includes advanced compressed air system controls and metering devices in the ongoing effort to reduce energy costs.
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More to ROI than Financial Payback
Whether it’s a project as large as the compressed air system upgrade at the Tennessee operation or ongoing work at the mills to identify and repair compressed air leaks, Tate & Lyle carefully evaluates the return on the investment (ROI) for all sustainability initiatives. Yet ROI is not always based solely on financial payback, Waibel said.
“Obviously, we’re looking for payback,” he said, “but working within the framework of our sustainability goals we ask how is it to going to help with carbon emissions? Is it going to save water usage? Sure, it’s about using money wisely but it’s also about the environment. We’re really fortunate to have a board and executive leadership team that genuinely cares about sustainability and our environmental impact. If something has a proven sustainability benefit, they will accept a lower payback or choose to invest if it’s the best option, because of the total commitment to our sustainability goals.”
In addition to its commitment to sustainability, Tate & Lyle prides itself on ability to operate efficiently.
“Companies can spend all the capital they want but if they don’t save energy or operate reliably, it’s not sustainable, which is why our plants take a lot of pride in their successes with energy performance,” Waibel said.
Tate & Lyle also takes great pride in knowing its energy savings efforts have elevated the company to a position as a clear leader in sustainability. Toward that end, Waibel said Tate & Lyle is the only company in the corn wet mill sector with plants in the United States that have consistently earned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR certification since 2012. In fact, the company’s corn wet mill in Lafayette earned the certification for the past five years running. The mill in Loudon has been ENERGY STAR certified for the past three years.
Waibel said he could not be more optimistic about Tate & Lyle’s continued success with sustainability.
“Our future is bright from both an energy use and sustainability outlook,” he said. “We achieved our CO2e reductions we established for our 2008 baseline. We’ve also laid out our 2030 goals with a checkpoint in 2025. Our executive leadership is fully committed to hitting those goals, and I know for certain we will.”
Work is underway at Tate & Lyle’s corn wet mill in Lafayette, Indiana, where the company has launched a \$75 million project to install a natural gas-fired Combined Heat and Power system for use as a power source instead of coal.
All photos courtesy of Tate & Lyle.
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