Dairy firm turns ‘green’ cheese into £3m annual saving after connecting new AD-power plant to grid

The completed AD plant at Lake District Biogas
The completed AD plant at Lake District Biogas

Clearfleau, which provides on-site treatment solutions for the food and beverage sector, has commissioned a new AD (anaerobic digestion) power plant at a dairy farm which now feed bio-methane into the gas grid.

By feeding the bio-methane into the gas grid, the facility will produce over £3 million a year in cost savings and revenue, while supplying up to 25% of the Cumbrian creamery’s energy requirements.

The plant has been designed and built for Lake District Biogas, which will operate the site for 20 years taking feedstock from First Milk’s Aspatria creamery site. This comprises low-strength wash waters such as process rinses, supplemented by whey permeate (cheese production residue after protein extraction for use in energy supplements).  This is pumped to the AD plant from the creamery.

This is the first on-site AD-power plant in the dairy industry in Europe to feed bio-methane to the gas grid, generated exclusively by digesting its cheese making residues.

When the plant is operating at full capacity later this Spring, it will treat 1,650m3 per day of process effluent and whey and generate around 5MW of thermal energy.

It will produce 1000m3 of biogas per hour, of which over 80% will be upgraded for injection into the national grid.  At least 60% of the bio-methane will be used in the creamery for steam generation, with the balance being used by local businesses and households.

Revenue benefits include 20-year index-linked, government-backed incentive payments, with about £2 million per annum in support through the government’s RHI scheme and a further £1 million through the sale of gas to the wholesale market and from the Feed in Tariff scheme for the power generated in the CHP engine.

Gordon Archer, Chairman of Lake District Biogas, said:This is the largest AD plant on a dairy processing site in Europe dedicated to handling the residual materials from the cheese making process and completing this £10 million project on time, given the weather conditions this winter, has been a major achievement”.

Craig Chapman Chief Executive, Clearfleau, added: 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.”

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