Agrial: From Energy Intense to Efficient

Lucie Frideling

Agrial, one of France’s largest farming and food cooperatives, provides its 14,000 members with technical, financial, and environmental support; it also has a number of its own production facilities. To help reduce its energy consumption, Agrial turned to Schneider Electric to implement a far-reaching energy performance solution combining energy audits and an energy performance contract for guaranteed savings.

Agrial’s dairy division has 24 production facilities across France. The cooperative’s Château-Salins plant in northeastern France employs 200 people and produces 50,000 tons of 160 different products for around 60 customers each year. Yogurt, pudding, and other dairy products coming off the production line are transferred to huge walk-in refrigerators to be pasteurized. The equipment—motors, lighting, cooling, and steam—uses 40 million kWh of electricity each year, making the plant Agrial’s first choice for the cooperative’s new energy performance solution.

A target of 10% energy savings by 2025

Agrial Image 3The energy performance project kicked off in 2014. Agrial issued a request for proposals that resulted in the selection of Schneider Electric as its partner.

The project—an overall strategy broken down into several steps—would have to be capable of reducing energy consumption at all Agrial plants by 10% by 2025. The first step was to select the plants with the highest energy-savings potential. The Château-Salins dairy plant was at the top of the list.

The next step was to confirm that potential energy savings did in fact exist. “We looked at tax impacts, transportation costs, and indirect energy-related costs and saw that all three were constantly increasing. If we wanted to protect our profit margins and stay competitive, we had to find ways to save energy. And the ROI on the project had to be five years or less,” said Agrial’s Purchasing Director David Delalande. “We worked with Schneider Electric to develop a pragmatic method. Schneider Electric’s experts approved a selection of three test plants, and then completed an in-depth audit of the equipment and energy consumption to assess the potential energy savings and what we would have to do to achieve them. Schneider Electric made technical and financial proposals tailored to each plant.

The proposals were approved, and then the operational phase of the project began. This included implementing advanced regulation capabilities on some of our process equipment, improving our boiler performance, adding variable-speed drives to cooling equipment and compressors, and replacing traditional lamps with LEDs. We also signed an energy performance contract that guarantees a certain percentage of savings.”

Peak Energy Performance at Agrial from Schneider Electric ESS on Vimeo.

Continuous improvement for long-term results

At the same time, Schneider Electric provided Agrial with an energy monitoring tool to give all of the cooperative’s facilities a standard monitoring solution to track their energy performance, identify additional potential savings, and anchor the improvements over the long term. “This is also a change management project for Agrial,” said Joël Labyt, who heads industrial performance for Agrial’s dairy division. “The approach is one of continuous improvement to get our operational staff on board to improve our energy performance every day and to make sure we keep getting better.”

Results exceed expectations

Agrial Image 5The results at the Château-Salins plant were significant. “We replaced lamps, added insulation, and set up our energy monitoring tool to measure and confirm the expected savings.

The costs of the project were offset by savings on our utility bills. We had planned on a five-year ROI. It turned out to be three years, which puts us well above our target. Of the eleven action items in our energy savings plan, nine have been implemented already. And, in just three years, we have reduced the plant’s energy spending by 10%. And all signs are pointing to continued savings,” said Mr. Labyt.

In addition, the project supports Agrial’s Corporate Social Responsibility policy by helping substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The solution has been successfully implemented at Agrial’s three test sites—Château-Salins, Rennes, and Domagné—, an experience that provides proof that the solution works and serves as a model for the rest of the cooperative. An additional 20 Agrial plants have been audited and seven selected for the next wave of the energy performance project.

“Schneider Electric came to us with a robust method, simple implementation, and, with the energy performance contract, a secure investment,” said Mr. Delalande. “On our end, we appreciated having a single point of contact capable of coming up with custom solutions, including for specific industrial processes, managing all of the subcontractors, rolling out the solution internationally (work is underway at three Agrial plants in Spain), and bringing us expert insights into all energy markets.”

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