NETHERLANDS – PepsiCo, in partnership with energy company Eneco, and leveraging technology from German start-up Kraftblock, is electrifying the production of Lay’s and Cheetos crisps at its Broek of Langedijk site in the Netherlands.

Replacing natural gas with sustainable electricity will lead to a reduction of around 50% CO2, to achieve a 98% reduction.

Powering food and drink manufacturing processes with green energy, instead of fossil fuels, significantly reduces a company’s carbon footprint but comes with immense challenges.

We needed to disconnect from [natural gas] and move to renewable energy,” recalled Katharina Stenholm, PepsiCo’s outgoing SVP chief sustainability officer, Europe.

But at the same time, the solution had to be ‘cost competitive’. “There is a lot of inflation going into food prices, so we are determined to find sustainable solutions that do not imply higher costs,” she noted.

Apart from the cost factor, relying solely on green energy is a challenge as at some periods of the day the sun and wind are unable to generate enough energy to power manufacturing processes, while at others, a surplus is produced.

PepsiCo, in collaboration with its energy partner Eneco, leveraging technology from German start-up Kraftblock, came up with a solution: a thermal battery that stores excess green energy for later use.

Kraftblock’s technology uses an ‘innovative’ material capable of storing temperatures up to 1,300˚C. Once the heat is transferred from the heat transfer medium–in PepsiCo’s case, from hot air heated by wind energy – to the storage system, it can be used for a period of up to two weeks.

At the Broek op Langedijk site, the stored energy is being used to heat thermal oil, which in turn, heats cooking oil to fry PepsiCo crisps.

PepsiCo said during the daytime, and peak periods (when energy costs are higher), it can switch off its electric thermal oil boilers, extract heat from the storage units in the form of hot air and then use hot air to the thermal oil heat exchanger to supply energy to its production processes.

And during the night and in off-peak periods, PepsiCo is now able to source cheaper renewable electricity from North Sea wind farms and convert it to hot air.

This heats Kraftblock’s iron ‘nuggets’ to 800˚C in ‘super-insulated storage units. In parallel, PepsiCo uses direct electrification to power two of its electric thermal oil boilers.

“We can now store renewable energy, which means we can pull energy at off-peak times when the prices are favorable…and take energy during nights and weekends, even if our demand is not high – to store and use later. That’s the novelty and beauty of this solution,” Stenholm said.

The installation marks the first in Europe, and within PepsiCo’s business worldwide, to fully decarbonize the operation of a snacks plant. The company has installed two units at its Broek op Langedijk site, with plans to install a third if the pilots are successful.

The snacks major has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 40% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2040. Within its operations, PepsiCo plans to reduce GHG emissions by 75% by 2030.

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