Two circular biomass boilers have entered operation at olam food ingredients’ (ofi’s) cocoa processing factories in the Netherlands and Germany, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The boilers use cocoa shells, a by-product of the production process, as fuel to generate steam, which in turn powers the crafting of cocoa ingredients from ofi’s premium brand, deZaan, at its factories in Koog aan de Zaan, Netherlands, and in Mannheim, Germany—where the company believes it will be the first cocoa shell boiler of its kind in the country. 

The boiler at Koog aan de Zaan was partly funded by a subsidy from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and took over four years from concept to completion. It will reduce natural gas usage and CO2 emissions at the facility by 50%. In 2022 alone, ofi used 8,000 tons of residual cocoa shells to generate green energy equivalent to using 3.4 million cubic meters of natural gas, helping cut absolute CO2 emissions at the facility by 23%. This is the equivalent of warming over 3,0002 Dutch houses per year. 

The second boiler at ofi’s factory in Mannheim has been developed through a joint venture with energy company MVV. It has the potential to provide up to 90% of the steam needed to power the facility, saving approximately 8,000 tons of CO2 annually. The new roll-out adds to the circular biomass shell boilers used in ofi cocoa factories in Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, and Singapore.

This latest move forms part of ofi’s ambition for sustainable cocoa, Cocoa Compass, which sets ambitious goals—including a 30% reduction in natural capital costs by 2030. In 2021, ofi reduced these costs in its global cocoa processing operations by 11% per metric ton of product output from processing, partly thanks to its network of biomass shell boilers and other initiatives such as green electricity and solar panels. 

Susanne Folkerts, global operations head of sustainability & environment, ofi, said: “We’re taking action to protect the planet and unlock value for our customers so that they can offer their consumers more sustainable choices. From the support we give to farmers worldwide to how we turn their cocoa into high-quality ingredients in our processing factories. These innovative boilers are key in reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions and making our Cocoa Compass ambition real. We’re also playing our part to accelerate the climate agenda of the EU Green Deal, in which moving to a more circular economy is fundamental. We’re thrilled to have been recognized by the Dutch government as a sustainability innovation leader and hope that other manufacturing businesses are inspired to invest in circular biomass as part of their decarbonization journeys.”

David van Baarle, industrial sustainability specialist, The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland, RVO) said: “ofi has demonstrated how making the most of byproducts can lead to significant CO2 savings. By developing a biomass boiler that uses its own cocoa shells to power the production of its deZaan cocoa ingredients, it is setting an inspiring example for other industrial companies. We are therefore grateful that ofi is giving its industry peers the opportunity to follow its example.”

Ralf Klöpfer, sales director at MVV Energie AG said: "This circular biomass boiler has set a strong example of how companies can decarbonize their operations. Implementing this feat of engineering, together with ofi, was not without its challenges; however, it has been worthwhile to support our vision for a climate-neutral future by 2040 and break new ground in the process. MVV is committed to becoming one of the first energy companies in Germany to be #climatepositive. With our Mannheim model, we can support our customers in realizing their sustainability goals, which is why we are particularly pleased to have been able to partner with ofi on this circular biomass initiative."