Threefold energy for efficient pharmaceutical production

The view from the top of the castle tower extends over the entire plain and, when the weather is good, all the way to the sea. It’s  a spectacular panorama, appreciated in the past only by the Caetani family, the owners of the castle, and today by visitors and tourists.  The castle stands in Sermoneta, a picturesque medieval hamlet perched on a hill not far from Latina, less than 100 km southeast of Rome:  the sea is the Tyrrhenian and the plain, which is fertile and highly industrialised, is the Agro Pontino.

From the castle it is also possible to see the industrial zone, which is one of the most developed areas in central southern Italy. It is home to the pharmaceutical producers Corden Pharma Latina.  From a distance, this appears to be a factory like any other.  From the castle, however, it is impossible to see what happens inside.  A valuable technological and innovative operation recently took place inside the factory, thanks to the contribution of Enel X.

 

A factory seeking efficiency

The factory in Sermoneta was established in 1969 and sold by Bristol Myers Squibb in 2010. Today it is part of the German group ICIG, and is one of nine chemical-pharmaceutical sites in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy (there are two more factories, both in Lombardy, at Treviglio and Caponago), Switzerland and the United States.

The factory mostly produces active pharmaceutical ingredients and specialist drugs used in oncology and anti-infection.  To minimise environmental impact, it has treatment systems for exhaust gas and wastewater.

Given all this activity, the factory consumes large amounts of electricity and also requires a considerable quantity of heat (thermal energy) for the production cycle and temperature control (cooling energy):  these factors all contribute to a significant usage of energy.

In order to reduce production costs and minimise waste and greenhouse gas emissions, the company asked Enel X to create a trigeneration plant:  a system that provides electricity, heat and refrigeration at the same time, to increase the energy efficiency of the entire process.

 

A “turnkey” solution 

Enel X provided a “turnkey” integrated package, covering the entire project, including both the financial and technical aspects, and handling every phase from design engineering to operating the plant.  This offered a customised solution adapted to the client’s specific needs.

The starting point was the analysis of the factory’s energy requirements (electricity, heating, refrigeration). This provided the basis for the design of the trigeneration plant, which was tailor-made for the client both in its technical aspects and in the contractual side of energy supply.

We obtained the authorisations necessary for the plant and built and made it operational very quickly. We took on the entire investment plus responsibility for maintenance and supply for the duration of the 10 year agreement.  At the end of the contract period, the client may choose whether to exercise the right to keep the plant or to renew the contract.

 

How trigeneration works

Enel X used the most advanced technology to design the plant, adapting it to the client’s needs.  Our team of specialised engineers came up with a technical solution based on an internal combustion engine, with a nominal power output of 6.87 MW, to generate electricity for the factory:  the residual heat – which was lost in the older plants– is recovered and reused. 

More precisely, the heat serves the gas recovery boiler, rated at approximately 2.5 MW (MW thermal) that feeds the heating system, and a lithium bromide absorption refrigeration system, with a power of 1.6 MWf (MWf measure cooling power, similar to MW thermal for heat), which provides the cooling.

 

Reduced costs, reduced emissions

The trigeneration plant, with a production of 48.5 kWh per year, will supply approximately 70% of the factory’s energy needs:  the increase in energy independence and improved efficiency create a 30% saving on billed energy costs.

Furthermore, the improved efficiency of the entire process also results in a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions into the environment, and in pollution generally.  This benefits the agriculture of the Agro Pontino and, above all, the population living close to the industrial area.  From now on, the factory of Sermoneta can rightly claim to produce medicines to cure patients, while also watching out for the health of everyone else.

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