Valio and Gasum to make energy from farm manure

Traffic is the source of a fifth of Finland greenhouse emissions, and milk’s share of the emissions hovers around 4%.

Valio wants to reduce its milk chain’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035. This goal can be reached in two ways: binding more atmospheric carbon dioxide in grass fields and generating biogas from manure to replace fossil fuels. 

“Valio is owned by 5,000 Finnish dairy farms with cooperatives in between. Our calculations show that if we used the manure from all our farms to make biogas, the volume would be enough to fuel the farm machinery and milk collection trucks. Recycling manure into biogas could, therefore, reduce milk’s carbon footprint by up to 50%. This would reduce the use of fossil fuels as well as methane emissions, generated during manure storage and use, says Juha Nousiainen, Valio’s director for the carbon neutral milk chain.

Finland produces roughly 15 million tonnes of manure every year, making it an interesting raw material for larger-scale biogas production. Currently, the market has not taken off, as using manure in biogas production is not profitable in Finland. In other Nordic countries, government subsidies make it possible to use manure as both an ingredient for biogas and as recycled fertiliser, enabling a better nutrient cycle.

“Gasum invests strongly in growing its gas refuelling station network in Finland and the other Nordics. Biogas production must increase to meet traffic emissions reduction targets. We have worked with Valio before. Valio has recently rolled out its first biogas-fuelled distribution and milk collection trucks. Both trucks run on Gasum’s biogas, which uses, among other things, waste from Valio’s dairies as raw material,” says Matti Oksanen, Gasum director for business development.

Finland’s Ministry of Transport and Communications published an action plan in December 2018, outlining the changes in Finland’s transportation towards 100% renewable fuel by 2045. One solution is to increase the share of renewable fuels, such as biogas. At the same time, Finland’s government has set a goal to have 50% of our farms’ manure to be recycled by 2025.

In 2017, Valio was the first in the world to patent a method to turn liquid manure into both clean water and easily transportable, organic-approved phosphorus and nitrogen fertiliser fractions that are easy to spread. The same process allows for producing biogas from dry manure fractions and other milk chain side flows. There are many benefits: using slurry as a fertiliser gets easier, nutrient cycling becomes more efficient, and the runoff of nutrients decreases. The method differs from current separation processes in that it’s possible to remove most of the water from the fertiliser fractions and turning the energy in manure to biogas. Valio has made use of its milk component processing know-how in the manure nutrient separation process.

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