Beneo barge investment to cut CO2 emissions

The company will halve the number of truck movements to and from Wijgmaal by increasing the volumes transported over water

Beneo has invested $426,000 in waterway transport to reduce its reliance on road transport. The project, which has included increasing unloading capacity at the company’s rice starch plant in Wijgmaal, Belgium, is aimed to enable the company to transport two-thirds of its cargo by barge each year. This will reportedly reduce carbon emissions associated with the inbound transport of rice from the harbour to the plant by 20% annually.

Prior to this latest investment, one-third of the rice processed by the Wijgmaal plant was being brought in over water by one barge completing 45 cycles per year. The remaining freight was making the 320 km journey from and to the ports by road. The docking station was the bottleneck that precluded higher volumes from being transported by water, the company says.

Following Beneo’s investment last year in higher capacity unloading equipment and a joint project with De Vlaamse Waterweg to reconstruct the quay, the docking station can now accept two barges, rather than one. The unloading system can shift more than double the volume of rice per hour than before, the company says, considerably shortening cycle time.

“It used to take three days to unload a barge, whereas now it can be done in 16 hours. This has allowed us to charter a second barge. Consequently, two-thirds of the rice used by the facility is now received by barge and just one-third by truck,” said Roland Vanhoegaerden, Operations Managing Director, Specialty Rice Ingredients, at Beneo.

Road transport emits on average 115 g of CO2 per tonne-km, where barge transport generates just 50 g of CO2 per tonne-km. By doubling the volumes transported over water, Beneo will halve the number of truck movements to and from Wijgmaal each year, contributing to group-wide sustainability efforts.

“At Beneo, we are always looking to improve our environmental performance. We are deeply committed to caring for people and planet in whatever ways we can, whether through raw material valorisation or driving ongoing reductions in energy and water consumption as well as CO2 emissions. Our inland waterways transportation expansion programme feeds into this and demonstrates how sustainability and efficiency goals can be mutually compatible,” said Vanhoegaerden.

The reduction in road traffic will also benefit the local environment, lowering congestion and noise levels in the neighbourhood.

The upgraded barge freight capabilities also dovetail with production expansion plans for the Wijgmaal plant. A $46 m investment is aimed to increase production capacity by 50% by March 2022, enabling the company to match growing rice starch demand driven by the natural and clean label trends.

“To ensure supply security, we want to maintain a multi-modal logistics model rather than relying solely on a single mode of transportation, but our aim is to increase water transportation in the mix in as far as we can. Barge might be one of the oldest ways of transporting freight inland, but it is one of the most reliable, cost-effective and sustainable,” said Vanhoegaerden.

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