Jovo Vujčić, Production Director in Carlsberg Serbia: Step by step towards “ZERO”

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The Čelarevo brewery is the first Carlsberg’s brewery in the world to introduce a new, energy efficient technology.

By: Žikica Milošević

Carslberg Serbia has recently presented a new biomass-powered boiler room in which the company invested a million euros. Apart from being the first of its kind in Serbia, the new boiler room is also a step forward in Carlsberg Group’s operations. It is the Group’s brewery in Čelarevo that has been given the opportunity to be the first Carlsberg brewery in the world to bolster its own energy efficiency and reduce negative impact of production on the environment as a result of this technology.

The Carlsberg Group is committed to eliminating carbon emissions and halving water usage at its breweries by 2030 as part of its new sustainability programme called ‘Together Towards ZERO’. The intermediate steps in the implementation of this programme include the exclusive use of renewable electricity at its breweries by 2022. ‘Together Towards ZERO’ is a response to the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products in a time of global challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and public health issues. The programme is an integral part of the Carlsberg Group’s SAIL’22 strategy and consists of four major ambitions – ZERO carbon footprint, ZERO water waste, ZERO irresponsible drinking and ZERO accidents culture – each with individual and measurable targets. The new biomass-powered boiler room is an integral part of this process. To that end, Carlsberg Serbia has organized a tour of the new boiler room for journalists and a press conference. The boiler room is one of the topics that we are talking about with Jovo Vujičić, Production Director at Carlsberg Serbia, who was appointed to this position in March 2016.

Utilization of biomass and renewable energy resources have become very topical lately. Carlsberg is a Danish company that has brought Scandinavian standards here which are reflected in the use of biogas and biomass in the company’s energy consumption. Both are considered significant innovations. How much did Carlsberg Serbia do in this segment, and could you tell us something about the results and the methods used?

By introducing this technology, in addition to already having a biogas-powered boiler, the Čelarevo brewery has more than doubled the use of renewable energy resources in its production process, and their share now stands at 39%, which has exceeded our initial forecasts and goals. Needless to say, we are very satisfied with this and are planning to continue at an even faster pace towards reaching the full 100% in the future. The biomass used in the new boiler room is organic matter of plant origin, that is, the timber harvested by purchasing and grinding waste pallets from the brewery itself. As a renewable energy source, biomass is CO2-neutral, which means that, when combusted, it emits exactly as much carbon dioxide as a plant binds in the process of photosynthesis during its growth. All byproducts that are released as result of combustion process in the boiler room, like ash and smoke gases, comply with the legal regulations of the Republic of Serbia and the European Union, which means that they do not have a detrimental effect on the environment. The remaining 61% of the energy is obtained through combustion of natural gas, but we are trying to reduce this percentage even further.

What are the future projections and how fast are the renewable energy resources going to be used until you reach the “ZERO” in the “Together Towards ZERO” campaign?

As you know, there are essentially two deadlines to meet – 2023 and 2030. Some of the standards can be fully implemented very quickly. In Sweden, for example, the Carlsberg brewery uses 100% of the needed energy from renewable resources, primarily through electricity, so, this is already feasible. We still do not have an opportunity to do so in Carslberg Serbia, as Serbia doesn’t have a liberalized biofuel market. Everything that Carlsberg Serbia does comes from our own resources. I’m pretty sure that we will not be able to move at the same pace as Sweden, but I am confident that we will go fast enough to meet our corporate plan. It is difficult for me to tell you how many years all of this is going to take, but I can confidently say that 40% of the energy autonomy that we have at the moment is not something that we are satisfied with.

Carlsberg has quite a market presence in Croatia, Russia and Romania. After the fall of socialism, these countries were hungry for clean technologies, because, at that time, technology they used was far from clean. We definitely need more bioenergy initiatives and more factories that would use it. Slavonia, Banat, Ukraine, Russia are all flat areas, just like Vojvodina. How can your business experience in these countries help with the implementation of technology in Carlsberg Serbia?

In terms of Carlsberg Serbia, at a group level, there is a Western Europe and a Southeast Europe division, with technology being easily transferred there. The downside is that the mentioned countries are usually very poorly oriented towards of high or medium-high investments. Carlsberg Serbia is still not able to respond in this way in the Serbian market, but what we do here is something that no Carlsberg brewery does at such a high level, and that is using the energy of our people and the will to change things, which is not an exuberant investment. Frankly put, we can see this happening in some highly developed countries which are quite curious to find out what is Carlsberg Serbia actually doing, because we have demonstrated that we have healthy and realistic solutions that do not always require high investments.

Since I am an automation engineer, I came up with an idea that we, in Vojvodina, where there is a lot of maize, could start working on generating biomass from maize briquettes. The idea to launch a local maize-based biomass facility is a novelty. Carlsberg is known for its innovations. It is the first company in the world to come up with sustainable pale lager, and is expected to be an innovation champion. That’s why Carlsberg makes “probably the best beer in the world”, and is a Real Madrid among the breweries. The trees, which timber you use now, are quite slow to grow, but sugar beet, barley, straw, and maize are all fantastic options with a huge potential.

We were thinking about this topic and we are definitely going to think about it some more. When we started this chapter, one of the things we had to decide was which biomass to use. Anything of organic origin that grows close to us could be used. Our case study was not only based on wooden cuttings because we do operate in a part of the world that has a great biomass potential. However, I cannot reveal to you our ideas and plans. It all remains to be seen in the years to come. Whatever we do, rest assured that it will be innovative. We expect a lot from ourselves. The team I work with is not a kind of team that puts its feet up and reads newspapers as soon as they get to work. Our goal is that, when we get to work, to do something new, something to improve the existing process, something better. We are open to suggestions and today, when we had journalists here, there were quite a few good suggestions made. There are several topics we can discuss here.

Denmark is flat and windy, just like Vojvodina. Have you given any thought to wind power?

Denmark has done a great job in that segment. The country has organized its power market so well that there is no longer a need to subsidize wind farms. Rather, subsidies are given to people who use power generated from wind. This gives you a fair indication of the sheer amount of energy that is generated by wind farms. We are open to all suggestions, but our basic idea is to produce beer. We want to produce as much as possible of good beer, and if we, in the process, can also do something to protect the environment and raise standards, that’s even better! We are a brewery, first and foremost, but an innovative brewery at that and the one that positively contributes to ecology.

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