Fonterra has announced plans to install a 20-megawatt electrode boiler at its Edendale site in Southland.
Established in 1882, Fonterra’s Edendale site is New Zealand’s oldest dairy processing site and the upgrade will replace one of its four coal boilers.
The $36 million investment will reduce the Edendale site’s emissions by around 20% or 47,500 tonnes of CO2e per annum, according to the co-op.
This is the equivalent of taking almost 20,000 cars off NZ roads and will reduce Fonterra’s overall carbon emissions from its NZ 2018 baseline by nearly 3% per annum once operational in 2025, it said.
The move is part of Fonterra’s plan to transition out of coal by 2037 and reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2018 baseline.
Fonterra acting chief operating officer Anna Palairet said the team considered a number of energy options before deciding on the electrode boiler.
“Fonterra has a complex manufacturing operation spanning the country. As technologies develop, it’s important we continually assess which energy source and technology is best for each site.
“With up to 15 million litres of milk being processed at our Edendale site each day, we need to ensure we have a secure energy supply that can meet processing demands.
“Cost is also an important consideration. Getting out of coal requires significant investment and we need to choose the best option that reduces emissions and operational complexity while also doing what’s best for our farmer shareholders.”
Meridian Energy, which generates electricity from 100% renewable resources – wind, water and sun – has partnered with Fonterra to supply the energy for the boiler.
“Energy contributes around 40% of Aotearoa’s total gross emissions and process heat makes up a third of this country’s energy use. So, it makes sense for Meridian to work with big industry to switch energy sources to clean energy alternatives” Meridian chief executive Neal Barclay said.
Fonterra director of technical excellence Chris Kane said the co-op is investing up to $790m to achieve its 2030 targets. This includes around $90m of government funding.
“We are well underway to shifting our manufacturing operations to renewable sustainable energy sources. In the past six years, we have carried out decarbonisation projects at five different sites.”
Kane said one of Fonterra’s biggest brakes in shifting away from coal boilers is completing the planning and finding the labour to do the task.
“In Waitoa, it took us a couple of years to do one boiler, by the time you do your planning and resource consents and a detailed design.”
That project used 190 contractors and finding qualified staff is a massive challenge.
Fonterra’s GM energy and climate Linda Mulvihill said Fonterra has 28 sites with 100 different plants that have different-aged technologies that have different energy efficiencies.
An electric boiler was chosen at Edendale because it was the best choice to meet the plant’s steam demand.
The co-operative is likely to use a mix of different energy source and types for the rest of its boilers.
The most immediate conversion is taking place at Hautapu in Waikato, where the two boilers at the plants are being converted to wood pellets.