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Sustainability stories

Sustainability from the depths

In Sempach, Switzerland, B. Braun is building a new production facility for disinfectant products. The plant is a flagship project in terms of sustainability. All the heating for production and buildings is generated CO2-neutrally.

At a depth of 200 meters, the earth in Central Europe has a temperature of about 12 to 15 degrees. Like a swimming pool, it’s not particularly warm, but it’s enough not only to heat a large factory, but also to run it. This is what will happen in Sempach, Switzerland, where B. Braun operates a Center of Excellence for infection control, one of its largest production facilities for disinfectants. The demand for these products has been steadily increasing for years. New guidelines on infection control, and growing hygiene awareness among the population are the reasons behind this.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disinfectant consumption to skyrocket. B. Braun reacted: within a year, capacity in Sempach was increased by 25 percent - partly by outsourcing soap production. But above all, the corona-related shortage of disinfectants accelerated a decision that had been pending at B. Braun for some time: that the Infection Control Competence Center at the Sempach site would be expanded and the production facility completely rebuilt. N.I.C.O., “New Infection Control Operations”, the name of the new factory, will be operational in 2023. What’s special about this plant is that all the heat required for production and heating will be generated sustainably.

“B. Braun values sustainability, innovation, and efficiency as a family business committed to future generations. With a focus on responsible climate protection, we aim to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030 while continuing to prioritize the health of people worldwide through resource-conscious practices.”

Dr. Melanie Pooch, Vice President Corporate Strategy and Strategic Projects at B. Braun.

Voluntarily set high goals

Silvio Valeriano De Mesquita is the project manager for the construction at N.I.C.O. “In Switzerland, and specifically in the canton of Lucerne, there are usually ambitious regulations for new industrial buildings,” he explains. “As an example, we are required to plant grass on the roof or re-use the rainwater. But we wanted to go further in terms of sustainability, and it quickly became clear that this would only be possible if we relied on geothermal energy.” This technology has long been established in new residential buildings.

However, in the case of large factories - N.I.C.O. has an area of more than 9,000 square meters - heat supply by geothermal energy takes place on a different scale. “Primary power generation is made possible using 31 geothermal probes. In simple terms, these can be thought of as 200-meter-deep holes which we shoot water into then we pump it back up,” says De Mesquita. The water is heated by only a few degrees; it is pumped in at a temperature of approximately zero degrees, and comes up at 3.5 degrees. But how do you extract heat from this very cold water?

Heat technology

Heat technology

A highly efficient circulation system: cold water is pumped into deep layers of the earth, heated to a high temperature, and then cooled and returned to the earth’s interior after the heat has been utilized.

Geothermal probes

Geothermal probes

31 probes embedded in the earth tap the heat stored in the ground at a depth of 200 meters and transport it to the surface via heat pumps for further use.

Water tanks

Water tanks

Three large water tanks with a total capacity of 270,000 liters store the water heated by geothermal energy, cooling and waste water.

Ice storage

Ice storage

The 300,000 liter ice storage tank stores heat in cold water. This energy is generated during the phase transition of water from the solid to the liquid state of aggregation. 

Consistent use of waste heat

However, storing energy is only one side of N.I.C.O.’s comprehensive energy concept. The other is the targeted use of this energy and, above all, the consistent recovery of waste heat. André Schaller, the production manager at the Sempach Competence Center, explains: “We work with different temperatures for the approximately 60 products that we manufacture here. Depending on which one is needed at the moment, we can provide the heat from our storage tanks with very low losses.

The same applies to waste heat; for example, from waste water from washing systems or from air conditioning systems - this is collected via heat pumps and fed back into the system.” All this means that the plant can be operated with a completely sustainable energy supply - namely, using the geothermal probes. “We designed the plant to be as sustainable as possible,” says De Mesquita. “That means we think of everything in terms of circulation. This way, we will also return the excess heat to the ground, so that our source is not depleted, but is constantly regenerated.”

“With N.I.C.O., we are showing that B. Braun is taking responsibility for climate protection. With the energy generation concept using the heat pump, we will save around 100,000 liters of heating oil per year at the Sempach production site alone.”

Silvio V. de Mesquita, Project Manager N.I.C.O.

We live responsibly

Sustainability is one of B. Braun’s corporate values and has been an essential part of our corporate strategy for decades.

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