L’Oreal has inaugurated the first European industrial process based on a sustainable energy. Located in Libramont, Belgium, the production site is supposed to be independent of the public electricity and natural gas grid and can provide in its own energy needs.

The project is the result of the co-operation between the Belgian developer of sustainable energy Bio Energie Europa, energy company Eneco and L’Oreal. The concept and state-of-the-art technology were developed over the past three years.

Libramont plant - © Bertrand Closset

Libramont plant - © Bertrand Closset

In practice, an industrial biogas plant was built close to the L’Oreal plant. Biomass, from local farmers and the agro alimentary industry, is collected in a hermetic sealed tank. In this tank bacteria convert the biomass into methane through the biological process of fermentation. This biogas is then transported through a 600 metre subterranean pipeline to the factory. The biogas bought by L’Oreal is used in three cogeneration engines that generate both green heat and electricity. Both the generated electricity and heat, which is converted into steam, are completely used by the factory. Moreover, more green electricity is generated than the site itself requires. The remaining power, which is enough to meet the needs of around 4,000 households, is injected into the public grid.

For L’Oreal, completion of the project marks an important step towards achieving its goal of reducing its worldwide emissions of CO2 by over 50% by 2015. L’Oréal wishes to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels to an absolute minimum in order to prevent CO2 emissions. In this connection, a study is currently underway to enable the French plants to apply similar concepts.