Fonterra goes full steam ahead on pellet fuel

Monday, 21 September, 2020

Fonterra goes full steam ahead on pellet fuel

It's full steam ahead on pellet fuel for New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra’s Te Awamutu site, with commissioning underway.

Fonterra announced the move to renewable energy at the beginning of the year, with the site previously using a mix of coal, gas and electricity to process milk. The cooperative has now managed to complete the decarbonisation project at its Te Awamutu site, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

 “We did have some delivery delays with certain offshore components, and I’m pleased with the outcome thanks to our team and suppliers,” said Fonterra Chief Operating Officer Fraser Whineray.

“It’s really important sustainability investments like this are maintained despite the pandemic challenges,” said Whineray. 

The move away from coal at Te Awamutu is part of Fonterra’s plans to have net zero emissions at its manufacturing sites by 2050. Once completed, the transition at Te Awamutu will reduce the cooperative’s national coal consumption by almost 10%, saving more than 84,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year — the same as taking 32,000 cars off the road. 

“It’s a positive step towards meeting our interim target of achieving a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030 and shows us what can be achieved by using wood biomass to decarbonise our manufacturing sites,” Whineray said. He added that partnering has been important in reaching this sustainability milestone.  

“We value our partnerships with Natures Flame and Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) — they are integral to major projects like this,” he said.

Natures Flame, the producer of the wood pellets, said in a statement, “It’s a great environmental story on all fronts. Our pellets are made from renewable, plantation-based fibre residues from local sawmills in the form of sawdust and shavings. We use renewable geothermal energy to transform the residues into a premium and reliable fuel, which customers like Fonterra can then use to reduce their greenhouse emissions.” 

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) CEO Andrew Caseley said industrial process heat makes up a little over a quarter of New Zealand’s energy-related emissions. “There’s enormous potential in New Zealand to bring those emissions down significantly by moving away from coal, as Fonterra is doing,” he said.

“This the largest boiler conversion project to biofuels to date, so our funding via the technology demonstration program will help to derisk it. It also has the added benefit of establishing a more viable and large-scale wood pellet supply chain.”

Image supplied by Fonterra.

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