Turning cheese into energy

Posted on 2 Jul 2015 by The Manufacturer

Clearfleau announces construction of the UK’s first anaerobic digestion (AD) plant to convert bio-degradable cheese production residues into biogas for the gas grid.

Clearfleau, a UK-based provider of on-site AD-based treatment solutions for the food and beverage sector, has finished the first stage in a sustainability project for First Milk, at one of the UK’s largest cheese creameries.

Once operational, the plant will feed bio-methane into the gas grid – the first dairy processing site in Europe to do so.

Lake District Biogas (LDB), a company set up to manage the project for First Milk, has commissioned Clearfleau to design, build and operate the bio-energy plant.

When operational at the cheese creamery in Aspatria, Cumbria, digestion technology will reduce residual sludge management costs, while generating renewable energy for use on site.

Revenue benefits will include 20-year index-linked, government-backed incentive (FiT and RHI) payments. When commissioned, the digesters will generate 1,000 sqm day of biogas daily, much of which will be upgraded for injection into the national grid.

Some bio-methane will be used in the creamery for steam generation, reducing net purchase of fossil fuels, while the rest of the gas will be consumed by local users.

Tom Northway, director of Lake District Biogas, commented: “Clearfleau’s on-site digestion technology has been selected as it has a proven track record in the dairy sector. It will optimise gas output and deliver a solid return on capital invested. We are delighted this will be the first plant in the dairy sector to supply green gas to the national gas grid.”

The integrated on-site AD plant will take over from the existing aerobic plant in early 2016 and will treat the creamery’s wastewater output as well as its whey permeate.

Clearfleau’s on-site AD technology is proven to reduce the chemical oxygen demand (COD) of the production residues by 95%.  Aerobic polishing will then remove residual COD and nutrients (nitrates and phosphates) to allow safe river discharge.

Chris Gooderham, director of First Milk, said: “By utilising technology from Clearfleau, First Milk will reduce the cost of handling the creamery’s production residues, while generating renewable energy for use on site. Therefore the new AD plant is more efficient, produces much lower greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reducing off-site transport of residues and making better use of the whey permeate.”

Craig Chapman, CEO of Clearfleau Limited adds: “Use of aerobic treatment for dairy processing residues is outdated. The revenue and energy contribution from AD offers a much better return than a new aerobic plant. Moreover most AD systems are not suited to dairy feedstock or treating feedstock containing fatty residues.”

“The project will generate biogas solely from cheese production residues, using advanced British technology.  It is a very positive move by First Milk to future proof their leading creamery operation by generating a significant proportion of their site’s future energy needs,” Chapman concluded.