Wednesday, 07 August 2019 08:55

NZ’s first carbon neutral milk plant

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Danone’s Balclutha plant. Danone’s Balclutha plant.

French global food company Danone says it will spend NZ$40 million on its Nutricia spray drying plant at Balclutha to achieve net carbon neutrality there by 2021.

NZ operations director Cyril Marniquet says it will make the Balclutha plant NZ’s first carbon neutral one of its kind.

A NZ$30m biomass boiler will reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions by 20,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent, the company says, of removing 60,000 cars from NZ’s roads. And a more efficient waste water treatment plant will meet Danone’s stringent global clean water standards. 

“[The investment] underscores Danone’s global ‘One Planet. One Health’ vision and the belief that the health of people and planet are interconnected,” said Marniquet.

“We share the NZ Government’s ambition for a low emission, climate resilient future.”

The company aims to be carbon neutral “across our entire scope” from farm to family by 2050. 

“By key investments like this one we take a step forward towards reaching this ambition,” Marniquet said. 

The Balclutha plant processes raw milk from 18 local farms into powder used as the base for Nutricia’s infant formula brands including Aptamil and Karicare. 

About 85% of the plant’s energy consumption goes to making steam for drying, currently by a gas powered boiler. The new biomass boiler will burn forestry by-products or residue. 

Danone says the four commercial forests within a 50km radius will be a reliable source of biofuel and will economically benefit the local forestry industry. The fuel providers participate in NZ’s Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme which guarantees their forests are sustainably managed. Danone will also look at burning urban wood waste. 

The company says installing the biomass boiler, and switching to renewable sources of electricity by 2020 will, combined, cut the factory’s forecast CO2 emissions by 96%. The remaining 4% will be gas used when the biomass boiler is being maintained. 

But Danone hopes that by 2021 it will have renewable energy specifically for the maintenance periods, which would make Balclutha the first carbon neutral dairy plant in NZ. 

The French water, waste and energy management multinational Veolia will be responsible for designing and managing the boiler construction.

The Veolia general manager for NZ, Alexandre Lagny, said the company is pleased to take on the project as part of its global partnership with Danone. 

Govt's happy

The Government is welcoming Danone’s decision to make its Balclutha milk powder plant carbon neutral.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said it’s encouraging to see that companies are willing to make this kind of investment.

“It’s really good to know that there are alternative low emission options for processing in the agriculture sector. This announcement today comes off the back of Fonterra’s decision a few weeks ago to move away from using coal. We’ll commit to working with players like this.

“It’s not just farmers who have a role to play, processors are also part of the solution and it’s really heartening to see companies starting to step up and acknowledge the part they need to play in tackling climate change”.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says this is another demonstration of how the Government’s programme of action around climate change is providing the incentives people have been looking for to do what they can to address global warming.

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