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Infraserv Höchst has laid the foundation for generating enough process steam to supply the production plants at Industriepark Höchst even if there is a natural gas shortage. The company will be using fuel oil in addition to natural gas at its power plant starting in early December in order to reliably supply the roughly 120 production plants at the park and keep them up and running. The operator of the park – where more than 90 companies are based and around 22,000 employees work – is also responsible for supplying the park’s tenants with utilities. The 4.6 square kilometer industrial estate located to the west of Frankfurt am Main is one of the largest, most dynamic chemical and pharmaceutical sites in Europe. It is where countless products are made – from lifesaving medicines to food additives, high-performance plastics for a wide variety of applications all the way to crop protection agents that increase crop yields.
Infraserv Höchst started preparing for possible restrictions on supplies of natural gas at Industriepark Höchst back when the Ukraine war began. To reduce harmful CO2 emissions, Infraserv had phased out coal at Industriepark Höchst at the end of 2020 and switched its utility services at the park over to natural gas. That means gas supply restrictions would have a major impact on tenants’ production operations. Natural gas still meets much of the site’s energy needs despite the fact that Infraserv Höchst generates energy with refuse-derived fuel, i.e. the high-calorific-value fractions of municipal solid waste, operates one of Germany’s largest biogas plants and recovers waste heat from production plants and incinerators in order to inject it into the industrial park’s utility supply systems. Since Industriepark Höchst is a highly integrated site in which the various companies depend on each other for products and raw materials, it is next to impossible to only supply utilities to individual plants that play a particularly important role in providing essential goods and services to the population.
Infraserv Höchst has spent the past several months making all the necessary changes to its equipment and operating permits in order to also use light fuel oil in its combined heat and power (CHP) plant starting in December. It has invested millions in converting the CHP plant and the requisite infrastructure. Pipelines were installed to transport the fuel oil – which is delivered by barge and stored in a tank farm on the shore of the Main River – to the CHP plant. Infraserv Höchst signed contracts locking in enough fuel oil to replace a significant portion of the gas required to generate the utilities that its tenants need. That way, production operations at the site can continue even if natural gas availability declines. Production slowdowns would only be unavoidable in the unlikely event of a complete interruption of gas supplies.
There are very tight constraints on companies’ ability to conserve energy at Industriepark Höchst. The chemical industry is an energy-intensive sector in which energy costs constitute a large proportion of total production costs. That alone gives it a compelling economic interest in conserving energy and thus minimizing its production costs in order to stay competitive. In other words, energy efficiency and the continuous optimization of generation and supply processes are already baked into day-to-day operational processes at Industriepark Höchst. Infraserv Höchst, for example, employs co-generation in all its energy-producing plants in order to achieve particularly high efficiencies. Recovering waste heat from production plants and incinerators further enhances the efficiency of energy generation.
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