Meet A Member: Boehringer Ingelheim

A Green Business Network Member Spotlight


Get to know Green Business Network member Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, part of a global, family-owned pharmaceutical company with facilities in St. Joseph, Missouri.  We recently visited their production facility in St. Joe to talk with members of their engineering, facilities and environmental health and safety groups – all who are working to achieve the company’s sustainability goals.


About the Company
Boehringer Ingelheim is headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany. With both human health and animal health divisions, the company is among the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world – and the second largest in animal health alone.

At their production facility in St. Joseph – called the Gene Field facility – they exclusively manufacture vaccines for companion pets, horses, swine and cattle and employ roughly 750 to 800 people. The plant in St. Joe is the largest animal health facility among Boehringer’s facilities worldwide and produces 40% of the company’s profits on the animal health side.


Tackling Water Use
A little more than a year ago, the Gene Field facility began successfully testing the use of sphagnum moss to replace the hazardous synthetic chemicals traditionally used to combat corrosion and scale buildup inside their cooling towers. The biodegradable moss’s ionic properties keep calcium and other dissolved solids in the water from forming deposits on the cooling tower media. Preventing the buildup keeps the heat transfer surfaces on the cooling tower open and operating at maximum efficiency.

In addition to reducing chemical use, the moss is helping them not have to replace water in the cooling tower as often. Although they haven’t yet been able to measure it, they feel certain the water savings are significant.

“The problem is we don’t have the flow meters and monitors in place to tell us what’s happening on a real-time basis in the towers. Those are getting installed right now, and we hope to have better information later this year on what that’s doing for us,” says Aaron Locke, a reliability engineer at Boehringer.

Exploring ways to reduce water usage is a big priority for the team. The facility currently uses about 1 million gallons of water in its manufacturing process each week.

“It’s really eye-opening – the amount of water that gets wasted. We’re looking for ways to reduce that,” said Roger George, facilities manager.

The team has a goal to decrease water usage by as much as 80,000 gallons per day (a more than 50-percent reduction) by eventually taking neutralized water from their boiler blowdown process, cleaning it up a bit, and utilizing it in their cooling towers.

“If that doesn’t work, our other option is to use the water for landscape irrigation instead of sending it to the city sewer,” says Locke.

Another way the team has saved significant amounts of water is through the detection and repair of leaks in their steam traps.

“Since we’ve been fixing leaks and paying attention, we’re now down to losing between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons a day where before, losses were averaging about 12,000 gallons a day,” says George.


Finding Ways To Save Energy and Reduce Carbon Emissions

In addition to water conservation, staff on site are also looking at every possible way to reduce energy use, carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. In 2010, the facility set a goal to reduce energy use 20% by 2020, however, it’s already achieved a 30-percent reduction. Now, the team’s goal is to further reduce energy use to save $500,000 – a goal they say will easily be achieved.

Energy measures have included using ultrasound and infrared technology to identify and fix leaks in their steam traps and compressed air systems; replacing burners on two 1,000-horse powered boilers to more efficient, low-nox burners; and switching over to LED lighting in most of their 14 buildings on campus.

Through their membership in the Green Business Network, the team recently connected with The University of Missouri-Columbia’s Industrial Assessment Center, which provides free energy, productivity, and waste assessments to small and medium-sized industrial facilities through funding provided by the US Department of Energy.

“One of the recommendations that came out of the report was for us to continue work on our LED lighting and installing occupancy sensors. It’s something we were already working on, but having the report helped us get more buy-in, and it provided us with the calculation of CO2 savings that helps us see our reduction in our carbon footprint,” says George.

They are also working to replace their freezer units with ones that don’t contain ozone-depleting refrigerants and use one-third less energy overall. With between 200 and 300 units on site, the savings add up quickly.

Opportunities for Waste Diversion

One of the biggest challenges for the team has been identifying alternatives to landfilling waste from their manufacturing process.  Like many industrial facilities, their input materials often come in packaging, and they are searching for creative ways to connect with other businesses to repurpose items such as plastic buckets, styrofoam coolers, bubble wrap and plastic pallets.

In their cafeteria, the team is excited to work with their food service partner, Sodexho, on its Better Tomorrow 2025 program that aims to reduce single-use items in its food service delivery.

“We’re also looking at encouraging employees to bring in their own reusable items – like cups/bottles – so that we can contribute to helping with their goals,” said Randy Johnson, environmental engineer.