UK's largest on-site dairy AD plant to generate green energy from Cumbrian cheese

One of the UK's largest cheese creameries, First Milk, has announced the completion of a giant on-site anaerobic digestion (AD) plant which is feeding bio-methane to the national gas grid.

The new AD plant will supply up to 25% of the First Milk creamery’s energy requirements

The new AD plant will supply up to 25% of the First Milk creamery’s energy requirements

The £10m project has been designed and built for Lake District Biogas, which will operate the AD plant for two years, taking feedstock from First Milk’s Aspatria creamery site in Cumbria.

Commissioned by British on-site treatment solutions provider Clearfleau, the facility will produce more than £3m in cost savings and revenue per annum, and supply up to 25% of the creamery’s energy requirements.

When the plant is operating at full capacity later this spring, it will treat 1,650m3 per day of process waste and generate around 5MW of thermal energy exclusively by digesting cheese making residues. The plant will generate 1000m3 of biogas per hour, of which over 80% will be upgraded for injection into the national grid. 

Revenue benefits will include 20-year index-linked, government-backed incentives from the Feed-in Tariff (£1m) and Renewable Heat Incentive (£2m), while the system will also help reduce waste management costs.

Virtuous cycle

Lake District Biogas chairman Gordon Archer hailed the completion of this £10m project on time as a "major achievement for the project team", given the adverse weather conditions in Cumbria this winter.

Archer told edie: “We invested in the plant because we believe that energy from bio-products and residues most efficiently generate green power, and in this case green gas. We are saving significant amounts of carbon because our product is no longer being shipped as it was previously.

"We’re utilising it on-site within yards of where it was created, and creating gas which then goes back to the source. So it’s a perfect virtuous cycle where all of the bio-products are used on site, with all the clean water sourced locally. It’s a project we’re all very proud of.”

Non-dairy desserts

First Milk’s announcement is a welcome case of waste reduction in the dairy sector - an industry which accounts for 4% of global emissions due, in part, to the methane produce by cows and the energy and land-use associated with keeping them.

In December 2015, edie reported that ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's - which has it's own Willy Wonka-esque on-site AD plant - is introducing a non-dairy alternative that will result in 40% lower emissions during the production process compared with its traditional ice cream equivalents.  

And in related AD news this week, ReFood has begun work on its brand new £32m AD plant in Dagenham. The state-of-the-art gas to grid (G2G) facility will be capable of recycling 160,000 tonnes of food waste each year, and will generate more than 2,000 m3/hr of methane gas. The use of G2G technology will enable natural gas to be injected directly into the national gas grid and used to power more than 10,000 homes across the region.

Correction: edie had previously incorrectly reported that this was the first AD plant to be built in the European dairy industry. Wyke Farms built an AD plant in 2013, as detailed here.

On-site solutions at edie Live

On-site sustainability solutions are one of the key topics to be discussed in depth at the edie Live 2016 exhibition at the NEC Birmingham in May. 

From the UK’s largest on-site solar installations to small-scale, single-site solutions, hear from those sustainability professionals that have already done the work and are making it happen for their business.

Register to attend edie Live 2016 here.

George Ogleby


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