In Poland, Volkswagen heats the city of Poznań

At its Poznań site, the German manufacturer turned to Veolia to help it improve its environmental footprint. This step led the two groups to develop an unprecedented solution for recovering the waste heat generated by the VW foundry and reinjecting it into the city’s district heating. A first in this part of Europe…
Published in the dossier of February 2019


In Poznań, Volkswagen has four production sites, including a foundry, the automobile group’s third largest and the largest cylinder head foundry in Europe. Keen to reduce this plant’s energy footprint, the Group has put in place a process for recovering the waste heat from the foundry’s compressors. Since 2016, it has helped power the city’s district heating operated by Veolia.

A benchmark foundry

The Volkswagen Poznań foundry located in the Wilda neighborhood is one of the first examples of waste heat recovery for district heating in Central and Eastern Europe.

“With 30,000 metric tons of aluminum processed each year, we are Volkswagen AG’s second largest foundry and one of the biggest facilities of this kind in Europe,” explains Thomas Kreuzinger-Janik, the foundry’s director. “Almost 30% of the vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen AG are equipped with cylinder heads produced in Poznań. Our annual production reaches some 4.5 million components, which we mainly deliver to the Group’s brands.”

Today, the foundry counts VW Braunschweig, VW Salzgitter, VW Chemnitz, VW Hanover, VW Kassel, VW Polkowice, Audi Györ, Audi Ingolstadt, Audi Neckarsulm Skoda and Bosch Automobile among its direct clients.

Volkswagen, a responsible manufacturer

Since 2010, the Poznań foundry has part of the Volkswagen Group’s Think Blue Factory program, which notably aims to reduce its factories’ CO2 emissions by 45% by 2025. The Poznań site’s ambition is to reduce carbon emissions, lower energy and water consumption, and reduce the volume of waste for each part produced by 25%. The plant is also committed to a sustainable development strategy adopted in 2014, covering three main areas: people, the economy and the environment.

Over and above an ongoing dialogue with the 11,000 employees at its four sites, Volkswagen Poznań has set up an integrated energy and environmental management system that complies with ISO 14001 and 50001 standards. Certificates attest that the facilities meet all Polish and European environmental regulations.
Engaging in dialogue with the residents near its sites, Volkswagen Poznań looks for solutions to offset its environmental impact. It plays an active role in local community life, providing development opportunities in terms of education, integration, environmental protection, help for children and young people, road safety, etc.

Waste heat: a new source of energy

“In 2011,” explains Thomas Kreuzinger-Janik, “we realized the extent to which compressed air production is an energy-intensive process: however, 80% of the electrical power required for production is initially converted into thermal power and then transferred in the form of hot water to be cooled. Recovering the calories from this hot water — rather than cooling it — then became an obvious step.”

After two years’ research, Volkswagen and Veolia developed a solution that captures 90% of the heat generated by compressed air production, preventing it from escaping into the atmosphere: an air/water exchanger recovers energy and then reinjects it in the form of hot water (85°C) into the city’s district heating.

A complex operation, according to Thomas Kreuzinger-Janik: “To connect the foundry to Veolia’s energy distribution center, we had to build a 2-km pipeline. Volkswagen invested 280,000 euros in the recovery facility and Veolia spent 80,000 euros to connect it to its network.”

As a result, each year the site saves 17 million liters of water (used in the cooling system), 400,000 KWh of energy (to operate the compressor), and reduces its carbon emissions by 1,000 metric tons.

Eco-friendlier district heating

Thanks to this industrial heat supply to Poznań’s district heating, many buildings located near the foundry — i.e. some thirty public buildings (a hospital, university, etc.) and 2,000 housing units — enjoy environmentally friendly heating.

Veolia participates in the city center rehabilitation programs, gradually connecting buildings to the heating network. This means that individual coal-fired stoves, which emit CO2 and are a frequent cause of fires, are disappearing little by little. With the direct benefit of a 9% reduction in heating costs for the network’s users.

Taking waste heat further

To achieve the goal that it has set itself (reducing the site’s environmental impact by 45% between 2010 and 2025), the foundry must “go further,” confirms Thomas Kreuzinger-Janik. “Still with Veolia, we are working on a solution for recovering the heat from the gas that escapes from the melting furnaces at 200°C. Which will, of course, still be used to heat the foundry’s neighboring districts.”

The Poznań foundry could help improve Volkswagen’s carbon footprint before the leading European car manufacturer finally turns its back on combustion engines after 2040 to comply with the climate agreements made in Paris.

Key figures

The Poznań foundry
more than 1,100 employees
4.5 million components manufactured/year

  • 2 million cylinder heads
  • 2 million steering gears
  • 500,000 front axles for the Audi A5

Production capacity of 250 metric tons, i.e. 11 truckloads of castings per day

District heating
A 1,700-km network supplying 200,000 inhabitants.

The benefits of waste heat recovery for the plant and the city of Poznań
1,100 metric tons of CO2 avoided per year
635 metric tons of coal saved by the foundry
17 million liters of hot water at 85°C injected into the heating network, i.e. 12 gigajoules transported per year
17 million liters of water saved per year
30 public buildings and 2,000 apartments heated
9% reduction in heating costs for municipal network customers


Know more

The auto industry opts for a greener future