environmental: securing responsible resource consumption

environmental sustainability

how we ensure

we consume

resources in a

responsible way

environmental sustainability

Environmental Case Study

11 November 2016

Placing energy generation and efficiency at the heart of our business

Placing energy generation and efficiency at the heart of our business


Responsible use and creation of renewable energy is a key focus for AB Sugar, as it looks to create value for local communities.

What we did

All of AB Sugar’s sugar factories, whether in Africa, UK, China or Spain, use combined heat and power technology (CHP) to provide the steam and electricity needed to operate the factories. Our sugar operations use both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources in large and highly efficient boiler systems to generate the required heat and electricity. In marked contrast to conventional power stations where the heat from burning fossil fuel is wasted, we capture that heat and use it for evaporation and other hot processes.

In the UK, British Sugar has invested over £15m in a new anaerobic digestion (AD) plant at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. It became operational in summer 2016, producing biogas from the pressed sugar beet pulp that is produced alongside the sugar making process. The biogas is fed into a combined heat and power plant (CHP) generating low-carbon electricity with additional heat recovery from the exhaust.

The plant is expected to use around 97,000 tonnes of pressed pulp each year and export renewable electricity to the national grid, making a contribution to the UK’s renewable energy targets under the Renewable Energy Directive. The plant not only supports our energy initiatives but also drives our downstream strategy to create a resource-based supply chain and extend our impact for all stakeholders. 

In Spain, Azucarera is self-sufficient in electricity generation during production campaigns through its cogeneration (CHP) plants. It generates more energy than required at its factories and sells the excess to the National Grid. During the rest of the year, the energy required by its factories is obtained from the National Grid, generated entirely from renewable energy sources.

In South Africa, several Illovo operations supplement their CHP capacity by using additional cane biomass, wood and woodchips as boiler feedstock. The electricity is generated on site, largely using bagasse, a dry, fibrous co-product from sugar cane widely used by Illovo as a renewable fuel source, which is used to power its factories. When there is surplus, the energy is used in additional agricultural operations and, where feasible, is exported to the national grid.


As a result of AB Sugar’s CHP plants, around 80% of the energy in the fuels is extracted and put to use in its factories, compared with standard power stations, which tend to extract around 40% of energy.

Over the past 12 months, our sugar businesses have:

  • exported 765GWh of energy to their national power networks for use by others;
  • sourced 59% of their energy consumption from renewable fuels, maintaining the same proportion as used in 2015.

Vivergo Fuels, our bioethanol manufacturing plant in Hull, UK, converts surplus non-food-grade feed wheat into bioethanol and animal feed. It has the capacity to produce up to 420 million litres of bioethanol for UK and European markets. When blended with conventional petrol, this reduces GHG emissions equivalent to taking 180,000 cars off the road.

Notes to editors:

For further information check out the 2016 corporate responsibility report.

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AB Sugar China Azucarera British Sugar Germains Seed Technology Illovo Sugar Group Vivergo Fuelds