Clearfleau begins construction of AD plant to convert cheese production residues into biogas

UK-based Clearfleau, a provider of on-site AD-based treatment solutions for the food and beverage sector, has finished the first stage in a major sustainability project for First Milk, at one of the UK's largest cheese creameries. Once operational, the plant will feed biomethane into the gas grid – the first dairy processing site in Europe to do so.

Lake District Biogas (LDB), a company set up to manage the project for First Milk, has commissioned Clearfleau to design, build and operate the bioenergy plant. When operational at the cheese creamery in Aspatria, rural Cumbria, Clearfleau's digestion technology will reduce residual sludge management costs, while generating renewable energy for use on site.

Revenue benefits will include 20-year index-linked, government-backed incentive (FiT and RHI) payments. When commissioned, the digesters will generate 1,000m3 per day of biogas, much of which will be upgraded for injection into the national grid. Some biomethane will be used in the creamery for steam generation, reducing net purchase of fossil fuels, while the rest of the gas will be consumed by local users.

The feedstock from the Aspatria creamery site 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 will be pumped to the AD plant from the creamery.

The integrated onsite AD plant will take over from the existing aerobic plant in early 2016 and will treat the creamery's wastewater output as well as its whey permeate.

Craig Chapman, CEO of Clearfleau says: 'Use of aerobic treatment for dairy processing residues is outdated. The revenue and energy contribution from AD offers a much better return than a new aerobic plant. Moreover most AD systems are not suited to dairy feedstock or treating feedstock containing fatty residues.

'The project will generate biogas solely from cheese production residues. It is a very positive move by First Milk to future proof their leading creamery operation by generating a significant proportion of their site's future energy needs.'

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