Green Energy From Cumbrian Cheese Plant Set To Open

energy-from-cheeseA new bio-methane plant is set to supply the grid with biogas generated solely from cheese production residues.

Clearfleau is commissioning its most complex anaerobic digestion (AD) plant to date, which will feed bio-methane into the gas grid in rural Cumbria.

This is the first on-site AD plant in the dairy industry in Europe to feed bio-methane to the gas grid, generated exclusively by digesting its cheese making residues. When the plant is operating at full capacity later this Spring, it will treat 1,650m3 per day of process effluent and whey and generate around 5MW of thermal energy.

It will produce 1000m3 of biogas per hour, of which over 80% will be upgraded for injection into the national grid. At least 60% of the bio-methane will be used in the creamery for steam generation, with the balance being used by local businesses and households in Aspatria.

The plant will operate the site for twenty years, taking feedstock from First Milk’s Aspatria creamery site. This comprises low-strength wash waters such as process rinses, supplemented by whey permeate (cheese production residue after protein extraction for use in energy supplements). This is pumped to the AD plant from the creamery.

Revenue benefits include 20-year index-linked, government-backed incentive payments, with about £2 million per annum in support through the government’s RHI scheme and a further £1 million through the sale of gas to the wholesale market and from the Feed in Tariff scheme for the power generated in the CHP engine.

Dairy Processing

The new plant, with its state of the art British technology, will take over from the outdated aerobic plant. This will have saved First Milk from having to upgrade the old inefficient plant, reducing their effluent treatment costs and carbon footprint, while cutting operational costs, which are borne by Lake District Biogas. Additional benefits from the deployment of on-site digestion in the dairy processing sector include reduced energy and off-site disposal costs.

Clearfleau’s unique process takes the feedstock from the Aspatria creamery site, comprising low-strength wash waters such as process rinses, supplemented by whey permeate (cheese production residue after extracting protein used in energy supplements). The liquid is then pumped into the AD plant from the creamery where the bugs convert the fats and sugars in the feedstock into biogas.

“This shows how sustainability can be an integral part of our food supply chain. We are looking at other dairy projects as more companies realise the energy potential of their residues.”

This is stored in the gas dome before being upgraded to bio-methane – 80% of the biogas is fed to a membrane based upgrade unit that removes carbon di-oxide from the gas to produce bio-methane with a comparable thermal value to North Sea gas (some biogas is also fed to a CHP unit to provide power to run the treatment plant).

Gordon Archer, Chairman of Lake District Biogas says: “Completion of this £10 million project on time, given the weather conditions in Cumbria this winter, has been a major achievement for the project team and Clearfleau. This is the largest AD plant on a dairy processing site in Europe dedicated to handling the residual materials from the cheese making process and we look forward to working with Clearfleau on future projects.’

Craig Chapman CEO of Clearfleau Limited says: “Dairy processors can generate value from their residues with a better return on investment than for other more conventional treatment and disposal options. This project, generating biogas solely from creamery residues is based on British engineering and is transforming the way in which the dairy industry manages its residues.

“This shows how sustainability can be an integral part of our food supply chain. We are looking at other dairy projects as more companies realise the energy potential of their residues.”


 

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