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Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are unavoidable by-products of sugar production. These gases are among the products of combustion of the natural gas used for our steam boilers and pulp dryers. In addition, ammonia (NH3) is released in a number of venting processes and when cooling the process water. Dust can also be generated when drying the pressed pulp and drying and cooling the sugar.
Suiker Unie makes every possible effort to prevent or minimise emissions. For example, the burners in the boiler systems were modified in 2015 and 2016 in order to ensure compliance with the extremely strict requirements relating to NOx. In addition, major investments were made in the factory in Vierverlaten in 2016 in order to condense ammonia out of the vapours produced in various processes, meaning that ammonia emissions to the outside air have been practically eliminated. The ammonia is condensed and removed from the process water via the water treatment plant. The effects of this investment are twofold: less odour emission and almost no ammonia is now emitted.

Carbon footprint (CFP)
The carbon footprint, sometimes referred to as the CO2 footprint, indicates the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted during a specific process or in a specific supply chain. The calculation identifies the total quantity of greenhouse gases associated with a process, product or organisation and the percentage for which the individual elements are responsible. This makes it possible to take appropriate action in order to limit emissions. The footprint is not yet calculated in the same way in different parts of the world. However, the calculation method based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is becoming increasingly popular internationally. This method determines a product’s environmental impact during its entire life cycle.
Suiker Unie also uses a method based on LCA to calculate the CFP for sugar. The scope is determined according to the ‘cradle-to-gate’ principle; i.e. the entire process from sowing the beet seed up to the final sugar product that ends up in the sugar silos. The calculation takes into account the greenhouse gases for seed production, the cultivation conditions, such as the amount of crop protection products used and soil fertilisation, and transporting the beets to the sugar factories. Obviously, the greenhouse gases associated with the process for producing sugar from the beets are also taken into account. These greenhouse gases are produced when fossil fuels are burnt. The carbon footprint is currently based on the economic allocation for sugar and the resulting by-products, i.e. beet pulp, spent lime and molasses.
The carbon footprint of our beet sugar is recalculated annually and we use a five-year average in our communications. This is done to avoid large variations caused by fluctuations in the yield per hectare and the economic value. The main factors influencing the CFP are the natural gas consumption during the sugar production process and the sugar yield per hectare. The steady increase in sugar yield from beet cultivation has a beneficial effect on the carbon footprint. The fact that only natural gas is used as a source of energy in both sugar factories is also favourable. The CO2 emissions associated with natural gas are much lower than those for oil or coal.
Suiker Unie has set itself the target of reducing its CFP for sugar production by 40% in 2020 (compared to 1990). We had already achieved a reduction of more than 36% in 2016, so Suiker Unie is well on the way to realising this objective.
Suiker Unie is extremely happy with its low carbon footprint. Nevertheless, Suiker Unie continues to make every possible effort to achieve further increases in the sugar yield and further reductions in energy consumption in order to ultimately achieve an even lower footprint.