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Cumbrian cheese-to-gas plant up and running

A creamery in Cumbria has become the first site in Europe’s dairy industry to supply the grid with biogas generated from cheese residues from production.

A creamery in Cumbria has become the first site in Europe’s dairy industry to supply the grid with biogas generated from cheese residues from production.

The innovative anaerobic digestion (AD) plant at First Milk’s site in Aspatria uses waste water from process washes and waste residue from production to produce 1,000m3 of biogas per hour.

Construction on the project, first announced in 2015, is now complete. The facility is the first of its kind in Europe and replaces the site’s older outdated AD plant.

Business benefits

As well as treating 1,650m3 per day of process effluent, ensuring early compliance with tighter water discharge standards in future, the new plant generates around 5MW of thermal energy for use onsite and eliminates the need for hundreds of lorry journeys a year by reducing the amount of waste needing disposal.

The biogas produced by the facility is stored in a gas dome, with 80 per cent then upgraded into biomethane suitable for supply into the gas grid. 

Revenue generation

At least 60 per cent of the biomethane will be used onsite for steam generation, supplying up to a quarter of the creamery’s energy requirements.

The supply of gas to the grid will generate £1 million per year in gas sales and government Feed-in Tariff (FIT) subsidies. The facility also attracts £2 million a year in subsidies from the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Industry potential

Craig Chapman, chief executive of Clearfleau Ltd, which designed and commissioned the plant, said the project was a landmark example of how the food industry is beginning to realise the contribution production residue waste can make to tackling climate change and improving resource efficiency.

“Dairy processors can generate value from their residues with a better return on investment than for other more conventional treatment and disposal options”, he said. 

“This project, generating biogas solely from creamery residues, is based on British engineering and is transforming the way in which the dairy industry manages its residues. This shows how sustainability can be an integral part of our food supply chain. We are looking at other dairy projects as more companies realise the energy potential of their residues.”