£10m Clearfleau plant to turn cheese into biogas

A new £10m plant that turns cheese residue into biogas, which can be supplied to the National Grid, is to be built in Cumbria by British firm Clearfleau.

The anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, which will supply Lake District Biogas’ creamery with up to a quarter of its energy needs, will produce 1000m3 of biogas per hour, with more than 80 per cent upgraded for injection into the national grid, which Clearfleau claims is equivalent to the yearly gas requirements of 4,000 homes.

Lake District Biogas, which will operate the site for the next two decades, is set to earn £3m per year in cost savings and revenue from the AD plant, while 60 per cent of the bio-methane produced will be used in the creamery for steam generation, with the balance set to be used by local businesses and households in nearby Aspatria.

The government will support the development over the next 20 years through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which will provide an annual grant of £2m, and the Feed-in-Tariff, set to generate a further £1m per year for the power generated in the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine.

Craig Chapman CEO of Clearfleau Limited, argues that dairy processors can generate value from their residues with a better return on investment than for other more conventional treatment and disposal options.

“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,” he said.

The plant, which creates gas from the feedstock from dairy giant First Milk’s Aspatria creamery site, comprising of the residue from cheese production such as wash-waters and whey, will take over from the firm’s current aerobic plant, resulting in carbon footprint reductions, along with lower operational and energy and off-site disposal costs.

Gordon Archer, Chairman of Lake District Biogas, added: “Completion of this £10 million project on time, given the weather conditions in Cumbria this winter, has been a major achievement for the project team and Clearfleau. 

“This is the largest AD plant on a dairy processing site in Europe dedicated to handling the residual materials from the cheese making process and we look forward to working with Clearfleau on future projects.”

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