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A large station for gypsum

For almost 20 years, Knauf's main plant in Iphofen has sourced FGD gypsum, a valuable raw material, from power plants in the German states of Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. It's all transported by environmentally sustainable rail.

On 23 October, logistics partner DB Cargo delivered the 10 millionth tonne to Lower Franconia, giving cause for celebration.

Premium quality gypsum: flue gas desulphurisation (or "FGD") systems at the power plant sites of Boxberg, Schwarze Pumpe, Jänschwalde, Lippendorf and Schkopau produce this valuable by-product. Knauf recognized early on how important this precious raw material was for keeping its main plant in Iphofen supplied. Air pollution control systems produce large quantities of FGD gypsum, which is chemically identical to the naturally occurring mineral. What's more, this gypsum is especially pure and thus well-suited to Knauf's gypsum-based building materials solutions, which offer advantages in terms of quality, construction performance and environmental safety.

On 23 October, a ceremony was held at the Iphofen plant to celebrate the arrival of the 10 millionth tonne. Franz Josef Pschierer, Bavaria's economics minister; Manfred Grundke, managing partner of the Knauf group; and Raimund Stüer, CSO of DB Cargo AG all pressed a button simultaneously to trigger the unloading process. "Knauf is an engine of innovation in the construction industry and one of the largest family-owned companies in Bavaria. The company has almost 2,000 employees in Iphofen and Hüttenheim alone," said State Minister Franz Josef Pschierer. "This collaboration with DB Cargo has been a success story for 20 years. The two partners show how sustainability and economic success can go hand in hand." The Bavarian building materials industry, Pschierer pointed out, accounts for some 13,000 jobs. The State of Bavaria subsidised the investment in the rail unloading terminal over 20 years ago.

A novel and extremely high-performing logistics solution was needed to transport and process up to 600,000 tons of FGD gypsum annually. The solution conceived some 20 years ago by Knauf and its partner, DB Cargo, continues to pay off today. At that time, a high-performance unloading installation was set up at Knauf's plant. This required the track layout to be extended by 700 m and a 30,000-tonne gypsum storage facility to be built. At the same time, DB Cargo developed a special wagon fleet of closed bulk freight wagons. Radio-controlled wagon covers and plastic liners ensure that the gypsum can be unloaded rapidly. Seven wagons can be unloaded in Iphofen simultaneously. This means that a train of 21 wagons loaded with 1,300 tonnes of gypsum can be processed in only around a half an hour. Up to seven trains from power plant sites in eastern Germany are unloaded this way in Lower Franconia every week.

Environmentally friendly and sustainable

Knauf and DB Cargo's logistics partnership in conjunction with the power plant operators not only plays a big role in ensuring Germany's largest gypsum plant is supplied with highly valuable raw materials, but brings environmental benefits too. More than half of the gypsum used by the Iphofen plant to manufacture construction panels and plaster is delivered as FGD gypsum. This is especially sustainable and environmentally friendly, since it reduces the depletion of natural deposits. On top of that, the fact that it is delivered exclusively by rail saves over 10 million litres of diesel fuel annually compared with transport by lorry. This is partly thanks to the training DB Cargo's drivers receive in energy-conserving driving techniques.