With Roland Dietler, a wood-fired power plant becomes a solution for three industrial sites in a region

By ENGIE - 05 March 2020 - 16:59

Roland Dietler is Technical Director of our Swiss subsidiary Caliqua, a supplier of thermal services to both industry and the public. An Imaginative Builder, he devised plans to transform a thermal power plant into a wood-fired power plant providing heat to our client, the DSM Nutritional Products factory. 


The project kept him busy for six years. “How can we supply the DSM site and two other industrial sites in northern Switzerland with green energy?” This was the question facing Roland Dietler in 2011, as Technical Director of Caliqua, a Group subsidiary with 1400 employees in Switzerland. The former site, a DSM nutritional product factory, was a thermal power plant built in the 1960s, outdated and no longer up to environmental standards.


The supply of energy to such a factory is a major issue, given that the DSM Nutritional Products factory in Sisseln is the largest vitamin E production site in the world and industry is responsible for 24% of CO2 emissions. The Novartis and Syngenta factories, located nearby, are also planned to be supplied with steam produced by the wood-fired power plant, which corresponds in total to the supply of 17,500 households with a reduction in CO2 emissions of 50,000 tonnes.


Roland Dietler has been working in the energy industry for his entire career: he joined Caliqua at age 26, just graduated from the Swiss Federal institute of Technology in Zürich. Appointed from the start as Director of the plant transformation project, he managed the design of the plans, selected the various components and supervised their installation. At the head of a team of 200 people, including construction workers, suppliers, and the Caliqua teams, he managed the complex project from design through to construction.

A Harmony Project at the centre of a personal commitment


“This Harmony Project is the achievement that I am most proud of in my entire career,” he says with enthusiasm. It is the first time that we have been able to transform an electric power plant into an entirely ecological power plant.”


After having defined wood as the best solution, in a heavily wooded region of northern Switzerland, there were still technical problems to be overcome. “Our biggest problem was how to measure the amount of energy in the wood, with suppliers being paid for the energy their wood provides, not the quantity,” Roland Dietler explains. An on-board measurement system on lorries was therefore designed, to calculate the amount of energy before and after delivery to customers, a world first. The Swiss engineer is proud of his work: “It was a very large-scale project, one of the largest low-emission gas boiler projects. The complex included a biomass boiler, three gas boilers, a steam turbine and a huge biomass bunker,” he says. 


Roland Dietler does not see the energy transition solely from a professional point of view. He has been a Greenpeace member for 30 years, so it is a lifelong commitment for him. “I would like to see the green revolution unfold in my lifetime, meaning that we no longer use oil at all. We have already been able to do without it and I hope we will be able to do without it for a long time. We have to agree to change our state of mind with regard to energy.” 


About: ENGIE x DSP Nutritional Products Harmony ProjectThe Sisslerfeld wood-fired power station, located in the canton of Aargau on the German border, is a flagship project for the transition to zero-carbon energy. This “as a service” project for industry, which includes an investment of 60 million Swiss francs, reduces CO2 emissions by 50,000 tonnes a year. This power plant, built to replace an old fossil-fuel plant and inaugurated at the end of 2018, produces 267 GWh of heat and 42 GWh of electricity per year from wood chips from the surrounding forests, within an average radius of 80 to 100 km. The DSM Nutritional Products factory buys heat from this plant.


ENGIE x DSM Nutritional Products 

The ENGIE Group has 110,000 employees working for 24 million customers worldwide and, just like Roland Dietler, they work together to develop tailor-made, integrated and long-term solutions. Focusing on energy efficiency, energy supply and environmental quality, these solutions allow our customers to achieve their zero-carbon transition. 


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