When a big name like AB Inbev puts out a tender for a mega-project, everyone immediately sits up and pays attention. “In 2016, when we found out that the beer giant in Leuven wanted to install a new cold block to connect up with its existing cold block, we knew straight away that this was right up our street,” says GEA Project Manager Peter De Nijs. “When we heard that we’d landed the contract, we were all just itching to get stuck in.” And AB Inbev felt just the same way. Yleni De Neve, Process Engineer Brewing at AB Inbev, is happy with the way the AB Inbev and GEA project teams worked together and is proud of the results.
The Belgian beer market continues to thrive. Beers such as Stella Artois and Leffe are in demand at home and abroad, which is why AB Inbev has invested substantially in its Leuven site in the past few years. Yleni De Neve: “First we increased capacity in the brewing hall, which is the warm process area of the brewery. Three brewing halls were already in use and a fourth was added. The project was dubbed d’Artagnan, after the fourth musketeer. But we didn’t stop there. The cold block where the beer ferments also needed major investment to significantly increase its capacity (by 30%) and make full use of its potential. We opted to build a completely new cold block and connect it up to the existing one. By adding 36 new tanks, we took the total number to 116 and we also built the process plants required, including a new centrifuge. We launched a tender to find the most suitable partner to make all this happen.” And GEA ticked all the boxes.
Valuable sparring partner
“I have six years’ experience at AB Inbev, first as a consultant project engineer and then on a permanent contract,” Yleni adds. “I was familiar with GEA, mainly from working on smaller projects with them. I knew that they were a valuable partner for AB Inbev, but was curious how things would go on a mega-project. Right from the word go, I felt that their project team would work with us to deliver the best possible outcome.” GEA was also closely involved in building the existing cold block back in the early 1990s, which turned out to be a major advantage. “The fact that GEA also brought in people who were part of that project and who knew our plants inside out – guys like Herman Leysens, for instance – was a real plus point for us. We were able to start off with a clean slate for the new cold block. The GEA team sat down with our people and we all thought hard about optimisation. We wanted to maintain our operations at the same level of efficiency, but modernised and applied to today’s needs. For instance, we installed a new sampling circuit that enabled us to test the quality of our beers even more accurately during fermentation. We also looked at operator ergonomics and replaced the coupling panels with an automated valve matrix.”
“I’m delighted with how the project went: safely, on schedule and with an eye for quality. During both the preparatory and installation phases, GEA pulled out all the stops” Yleni De Neve, Process Engineer Brewing at AB Inbev.
Expert team, great atmosphere
“Bear in mind that there were sometimes more than 150 people on the work site and that production had to carry on regardless, and you’ll understand why everything had to be kept under control down the last detail. Because of the scale of the project, GEA opted to have two site managers, who were each responsible for part of the plant. Site manager Marc Jacobs is not only very competent, he’s a great guy to have around and invariably managed to come up with a solution to any problem on the site. If he needed us to halt production, he told me well in advance, which was always reassuring. We also had a great working relationship with the other site manager, Bryan van Rijswijk. The welders knew their stuff so we were really happy with them too. What’s more, the whole project was managed with total professionalism: Peter De Nijs kept a tight rein on everything, and communications and recordkeeping were excellent. If it were up to me, I’d work with the same team again. The results speak for themselves, so I’m always really proud when I take people on a guided tour of our new cold block”, Yleni observes.
0 incidents during implementation of the project, thanks to daily safety and coordination consultations with all the contractors: crucial for optimal safety and collaboration.
5.5 months required to complete the project instead of the projected 9 months. We put our best foot forward, and the first batch was produced in the new cold block on 1 March 2017.
85 people led by GEA were at work during the peak period (of whom 60 were welders working for the contractor Inss-Poll, 15 were electricians from Actemium and 10 were insulation fitters from Hertel).
10,000,000 euros was the project value.
36 tanks in two tank groups make up the new cold block. The first group consists of 16 4700 hl tanks and is used to process the bulk volume of the brewery; the other group of 20 2700 hl tanks processes the smaller batches or brewing volumes. A second aspect of the project that ran parallel to the first was connecting the new cold block to the existing brewery.
400 hl/hour: this is the capacity of the new loading/unloading bay connected to the three fermentation tanks that we supplied and installed.
600-700 hl/hour: this is the capacity of the new GSE-550 GEA centrifuge with its accompanying beer cooler that was incorporated into the project.
100 % of the processing equipment (apart from the tanks), from the wort intake to the pumps that transport the beer to the filters, was supplied and installed by GEA.
3000 components were installed, more than 1600 of which came from GEA.
4200 point I/O modules distributed over about 25 field boards with Allen-Bradley I/O stations and Ethernet connections to two overhead Allen-Bradley PLCs