Why cashews and coconuts are Merck's green energy secret

By Fiona Barry

- Last updated on GMT

Merck's plant near Panaji, Goa.
Merck's plant near Panaji, Goa.

Related tags Carbon dioxide

Merck KGaA will run its manufacturing plant in Goa on fuel from cashews and coconuts.

The German giant is recycling the shells of cashews and coconuts, common crops in the region, to use as biomass fuel at a “climate-neutral​” plant at its production site in Goa, India.

The facility is “co-generational​”, meaning the coconut and cashew shells will generate both electricity and useful heat in the form of steam – at a total power output of three megawatts.

Merck estimated the switch to greener energy will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 11,500 metrics tons, around 85% of the site's total CO2​ emissions.

The biomass plant cost €3m ($3.8m) and will ensure the site has a reliable supply of energy and can operate independently of the public power grid.

Biomass and turbines

This is not Merck’s first step towards energy efficiency: the company introduced a worldwide climate protection programme, including construction of a co-generation plant at its headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany in July this year.

It is also planning to build a biomass central heating plant at its site in Jaffrey, New Hampshire in 2015.

Merck says its programme includes another 300 climate protection activities, all with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making R&D and production more energy-efficient.

The company aims to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020, compared with 2006.

Other pharma companies are getting in on the green act, with GSK, Novartis and J&J collaborating to install wind turbines in Ireland,​ and Amgen’s Singapore site launched this week which expects to use less water and produce fewer emissions than traditional manufacturing.

Merck's Goa site is located in Usgao, around 45km from Panaji, the capital of the Indian state of Goa. More than 300 employees manufacture pharmaceuticals, microbiological products, and chemicals.

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