How the Bio Energy Base came into being
BEE are passionate about energy, sustainability and innovation. CEO Michael Corten, together with COO Vicky Buyse, make up the entrepreneurial power couple and engineering duo behind it. Each day, they are working towards creating a more sustainable world with their ground-breaking idea.
With their magnum opus having launched on 19 May, the pioneering pair share with us their story behind BEE and the Bio Energy Base (BEB). They also discuss the strengths and exceedingly innovative aspect of the Bio Energy Base, along with their vision for sustainability.
Long story short, what can BEE do for businesses?
Michael: B2B companies can rely on us to make their energy consumption more sustainable, with every sustainability project fully tailored to their specific needs.
We look for ways to improve businesses’ green energy consumption as much as possible. More specifically, we examine how big a wind turbine or solar park should be. Businesses who opt for biomass plants often end up with an energy surplus. This is where we step in, by helping to map out how many businesses can benefit from the plant and be connected to that grid.
Vicky: The bottom line is that all our energy is local. We supply locally-generated energy to nearby industries.
What sets BEE apart from other energy companies?
Michael: At BEE, the customer always comes first. This means we always look to foster a one-to-one relationship, one where the customer is always free to call on our specialised team of engineers and energy experts. Another key aspect is that we employ different technologies for doing so.
What is your aim? What is BEE’s mission?
Michael: Sustainability, in every sense of the word, attained both ecologically and economically. After all, customers need to remain competitive in their own sphere of activity. We are simply there by their side during this process.
We supply green steam, energy and heat. The fact that we can offer all that in large volumes is important for the industry.
Thanks to our energy production, the port of Ghent is currently in line for significant investment, as exemplified by Biotech business Innovafeed.
Vicky: Innovafeed develops processes for breeding and processing insects to help benefit of the food sector, where sustainability within the food chain is key. Proteins derived from insects are an important food source for farmed fish (e.g. salmon) from aquaculture, which in turn helps to combat overfishing and marine erosion. Through its desire to use (sustainably produced) heat energy to grow their insects, the French business is now set to commence business activities at the BEB site.
This neatly demonstrates how our pioneering approach to energy generation is attracting new businesses, both from at home and abroad. Consequently, we are generating a real hive of activity around the BEB, forming an innovative industry cluster. Not only will this make for a greener energy network, but it will also provide a boost in employment for the Ghent port area.
How did the Bio Energy Base come about?
Michael: We started BEE in 2010, in tandem with the development of the power plant. After searching for a location within the port and having our permit application approved, we were able to start development on the Bio Energy Base. That is, until 2016, when disaster struck, and we lost the plant due to the newly imposed ‘Turteltaks’ tax on electricity consumption.
Vicky: This weighed heavily on us. We even considered halting development on the biomass plants. Fortunately, Michael’s unwavering resilience and real entrepreneurial spirit drove us to push on and develop a new power plant. Full force!
Michael: We still had the original team around us, so we simply got straight back to work. We went over the entire process again, from permits and contracts to suppliers. Fortunately, everyone still had faith in us.
Vicky: If you keep believing in your dreams and are still passionate about what you are trying to achieve, then you simply have to go for it. We have certainly been pioneers in this sense. We have built everything and garnered all knowledge ourselves, which is no mean feat in the energy landscape.
Michael: What is so unique about the Bio Energy Base concept is our emphasis on the local generation and maximum utilisation of our energy flows, both by existing customers and new ones in the port of Ghent.
Vicky: The Bio Energy Base is licensed to burn contaminated and non-contaminated wood waste. The wood is supplied via barges. When docked, the wood is unloaded and sent straight to the incineration boiler.
With the flue gases resulting from the combustion, we produce steam that goes to a steam turbine. All flue gases are cleaned by a flue gas purifier that meets the strict regulations.
Today, there many new technologies available, as seen here in our new production plant. Thanks to our highly sophisticated flue-gas cleaning system, our power plant is fully CO2 neutral.
Michael: All the wood arriving here is locally sourced, as stipulated by our contractual agreement with the supplier. While none of it originates from further than 200 km away, we also receive wood from the Ghent area itself.
At present, we are utilising the best available tool known the world over: efficiency within the plant itself. We have maximised our conceptual efforts into serving our customers effectively in terms of high-efficiency green energy, steam and heat.
We are also working with new technologies to find a solution for the remaining emissions. For instance, we are capturing and storing greenhouse gases through Carbon Capture Storage (CCS), while also reusing these gases through Carbon Capture Usage (CCU). This is an important step towards meeting our climate targets, fostering a circular economy and in further reducing the CO2 problem.
From our biomass plant, green energy, steam and heat are injected via pipelines directly to neighbouring businesses.
Vicky: The Ghent Bio Energy Base produces as much wind energy as 174 wind turbines. We could even provide energy for up to 50,000 Ghent households.
What does the future hold for BEE?
Vicky: The future starts here, with producing affordable renewable energy. We are encouraging other businesses to actively take part in the energy transition. Investing in new power plants, exploring new technologies and of course striving for co-creation.
By building this power plant, we are adopting circular reasoning and working in much broader collaboration with all partners within the entire production chain.
We want to roll out this innovative concept throughout Belgium. The more hubs and clusters, the more prosperity will be anchored and driven by locally produced renewable energy.
Michael: The Bio Energy Base is not only a turning point for BEE, it is also one for the economy as whole.
Vicky: We hold the answer to the energy transition. Not only are we stimulating the Flemish economy by boosting employment, but we are also making new renewable energy a reality.
Michael: BEE's goal is to bring sustainability to other businesses, creating value for both parties. Based on modern ecological techniques and by creating value, the aim is to keep growing further.
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