Tuesday, 29 September 2020 06:25

From coal to pellets

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Fraser Whineray. Fraser Whineray.

Fonterra is on track to meeting an interim target of achieving a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030.

Fonterra chief operating officer Fraser Whineray told Dairy News that swapping coal for wooden pellets at its Te Awamutu site is “a big step” towards the target.

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 co-operative’s national coal consumption by almost 10%, saving more than 84,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year – the equivalent of taking 32,000 cars off the road. 

Fonterra announced the Te Awamutu site’s 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. 

Covid-19 has presented some challenges.

Whineray says the arrival of some fabricated parts was delayed by a couple of weeks. However, the decarbonisation project was completed before the spring milk arrived.

“We did have some delivery delays with certain offshore components, and I’m pleased with the outcome thanks to our team and suppliers. 

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

Whineray says 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.”

Natures Flame who produces the wood pellets says it is delighted to have partnered with Fonterra to make the change to sustainable wood pellets as smooth as possible.

The pellets are made from renewable wood fibre residues (sawdust and shavings) from local sawmills.

“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. We welcome Fonterra as a customer and look forward to working together on this and other future opportunities”, says John Goodwin, operations manager, Natures Flame.

EECA chief executive Andrew Caseley says industrial process heat makes up a little over a quarter of the country’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. 

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

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