Fonterra’s Te Awamutu site shifts from coal to wood pellets

Fonterra, a multinational dairy co-operative owned by around 10,500 New Zealand farmers, has transitioned from coal to wood pellets at its Te Awamutu site.

The co-operative announced the site’s move to renewable energy at the start of the year, with the site previously using a mix of coal, gas, and electricity to process milk.

The firm’s chief operating officer Fraser Whineray said sustainability is core to the co-operative’s long-term strategy and while the pandemic has presented challenges, they have still completed the decarbonisation project at Te Awamutu before the spring milk arrived.

The move away from coal at the facility is part of Fonterra’s plans to achieve net-zero emissions at its manufacturing sites by 2050. Once completed, it will reduce the co-operative’s national coal consumption by almost 10%, saving more than 84,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year – equivalent to removing 32,000 cars from the road.

Fonterra partnered with Natures Flame and Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) on the project. Natures Flame, which produces the wood pellets, said it is delighted to have partnered with Fonterra to make the change to sustainable wood pellets as smooth as possible.

John Goodwin, operations manager at Natures Flame, said: “It’s a great environmental story on all fronts. Our pellets are made from renewable, plantation-based fibre residues from local sawmills in the form of sawdust and shavings.

“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.”

“There’s enormous potential in New Zealand to bring those emissions down significantly by moving away from coal, as Fonterra is doing,” said EECA CEO Andrew Caseley.

“This is 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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