Full steam ahead for wood biomass boiler

An aerial view of the Waitoa site.

Fonterra’s Waitoa manufacturing site is now using around 50 per cent less coal as its new wood biomass boiler swings into action.

Waitoa is the third Fonterra manufacturing site to reduce coal use this year, as part of the Co-op’s plan to reduce its Scope 1&2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 (from a 2018 baseline).

The new wood biomass boiler will reduce the site’s annual emissions by at least 48,000 tonnes of CO2e, the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off New Zealand’s roads and is another significant step in the Co-op’s transition to a low carbon future.

Fonterra acting chief operating officer Anna Palairet says Fonterra is committed to moving to more sustainable fuel options as part of its ambition to be net zero by 2050.

“Being a leader in sustainability is a strategic priority for the Co-operative and we know we have a part to play in helping New Zealand meet its climate targets.

“Fonterra has invested around $90million in this new boiler, which will make a 3% reduction in our emissions. It is just one of the many decarbonisation projects underway across the Co-op.

“Earlier this year we moved off coal to wood biomass at our Stirling site and announced projects at Hautapu where we are converting the coal boilers to use wood pellets, and at the FBNZ Palmerston North site where we have installed a heat pump and solar thermal system. These projects follow earlier wood biomass projects at our Te Awamutu and Brightwater sites."

“When you add together the emissions reductions from all projects complete or underway across our manufacturing operations, they reduce our CO2e emissions by a forecast 16% from our FY18 baseline - 279,000 tonnes per annum - the equivalent of 116,200 cars off NZ roads.

The installation of the new boiler at Waitoa will also give a boost to the local wood biomass industry, with Wood Energy NZ supplying wood chip to power the biomass boiler.

Waitoa is also the home to the Co-op’s first electric milk tanker, Milk-E, which to date has collected over 5.5 million litres of milk and completed 1004 farm collections. Fonterra is trialling the electric milk tanker as part of its plan to reduce transport emissions.

Fonterra expects to further reduce its emissions through a combination of energy efficiency initiatives and switching fuels at our six manufacturing sites that will still be using coal in 2024, and ultimately stop using coal by 2037.

Fonterra is in the process of converting the coal boilers at the Hautapu site to wood pellets. Once complete in early 2024, the Hautapu site will reduce its carbon emissions by a forecast 15,785 tonnes per annum - the equivalent of taking about 6,500 cars off New Zealand’s roads.

The Stirling wood biomass boiler has been commissioned, moving the site to fully renewable thermal energy for its process heat. Changing to this boiler will reduce the annual carbon emissions by 18,500 tonnes – the equivalent of taking approximately 7,700 cars off New Zealand’s roads.

In 2020, the Te Awamutu manufacturing site converted its coal boiler to wood pellets, reducing the Co-op’s national coal consumption by 9 per cent, saving more than 84,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year – the same as taking 32,000 cars off the road.

The Brightwater site near Nelson switched to co-firing biomass, helping reduce CO2e emissions by 25 percent, or the equivalent of taking 530 cars off the road.

The Co-operative is developing plans to transition its manufacturing sites that use natural gas to other more sustainable energy sources such as biomass, biogas, and electricity from renewable sources.


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