A recent $6.1 million investment by Cargill to upgrade an aging boiler system at the company’s Plainview, Texas, beef processing facility has increased efficiency, reduced energy consumption and added steam capacity that will enable the facility to grow and expand product offerings to customers, both present and future. New boiler system efficiency at Plainview has reached 92 percent, an improvement of 19 percent over the aging system it replaced. This is the latest of more than $50 million invested by Cargill in processing plant efficiency projects at Plainview over the past five years.
“Our Plainview beef processing facility is now positioned to better meet current and future customer needs,” stated Jim Rathke, vice president and general manager at Plainview. “This boiler system upgrade will enable us to do it in a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly way. Improvements such as this allow us to remain competitive while helping us to achieve our goal for becoming an ever-more-sustainable business.”
“This new system has all of the new technological bells and whistles, including components that continuously regulate the fuel and oxygen mixture to optimize heating efficiency, a condensing economizer that helps minimize heat loss that otherwise reduces efficiency, as well as a new biogas blending system,” explained Scott Hartter, vice president of Cargill environment, health and safety for the company’s Wichita-based meat businesses. “The new Plainview boiler system represents the most advanced combination of renewable energy use with the ultimate level of efficiency.”
The return on investment from this expenditure is due to reduced utility costs and improved energy and production efficiency, which justifies spending such as this from a business standpoint, while also supporting Cargill’s efforts to be a good citizen and improve communities where it has operations. In addition to the facility’s new boiler system, Cargill’s Plainview plant recently adopted a facility wide, behavior-based, energy management system.
“It is inspirational to see employees embracing energy and resource improvements when we challenge them to help us find solutions,” said Rathke. “Employees at Plainview now think about the plant’s resource utilization in terms of continuous improvement and how it benefits the company, community and environment. Cargill employees generate terrific resource improvement ideas that likely would never have surfaced prior to implementing this collaborative process.”
Cargill’s Plainview beef processing facility is also contributing to reduction of its energy use by generating 30% of the plant’s fuel needs through biogas recovery system that collects methane gas from wastewater treatment ponds. The methane is generated using anaerobic digesters to break down organic material in the plant’s wastewater, and the gas is then used as a fuel source, which prevents it from being released into the atmosphere. Capturing the methane from biogas significantly reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while also serving as a valuable fuel source. The biogas recovery system reduces demand for natural gas equal to the amount consumed annually by more than 2,500 residential users.
“Being part of America’s agricultural sector that feeds millions of people in the U.S. and internationally, we believe it is crucial to respect the resources we use to produce beef,” stated Rathke. “Natural resources including land, water and air contribute to the success of our business, and they will never be taken for granted.”
Cargill’s Plainview beef processing facility is where more than 2,000 people work daily, five-days-per-week, processing approximately 1 million head of cattle annually, supplying much of the nation’s beef.