UK FOOD & BEVERAGE treatment company Clearfleau is set to launch Europe’s first anaerobic digestion (AD) plant to supply the UK’s gas grid with bio-methane generated exclusively from cheese production residues.
The £10m (US$14.2m) plant was designed and built in Cumbria, UK for Lake District Biogas, which will operate the plant for 20 years, using feedstock such as process rinses from dairy producer First Milk's nearby Aspatria cheese creamery.
The plant will treat 1,650 m3 of cheese-processing waste and generate around 5 MW/d of thermal energy. Clearfleau says the plant is expected to be operating at full capacity later in the Spring.
The plant will produce bio-methane at a rate of up to 1,000 m3/h. Over 80% of which will be upgraded to be injected into the gas grid. Most of this will be used to supply 25% of the creamery’s energy requirement, and the rest to be used by local businesses and households in Cumbria. The plant is set to save approximately £3m/y, through government incentives and sale of the excess gas.
Clearfleau’s process takes the feedstock from the creamery, comprising low-strength wash waters such as process rinses, and 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 microorganisms convert the fats and sugars in the feedstock into biogas.
The biogas is stored in a gas dome, where 80% of the gas is fed into a membrane-based upgrade unit that removes CO2 to produce bio-methane. Clearfleau says the AD technology has been proven to reduce the chemical oxygen demand (COD) of the production residues by at least 95%.
Craig Chapman, CEO of Clearfleau, said: “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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