Valio and Gasum partnership will recycle farm manure into biogas to reduce milk’s carbon footprint 

Valio and Gasum partnership will recycle farm manure into biogas to reduce milk’s carbon footprint

  • Milk’s carbon footprint could be reduced by up to 50 percent
  • Potential reduction of the usage of fossil fuels as well as methane emissions

HELSINKI, 3-May-2019 — /EuropaWire/ — Food producer Valio and energy company Gasum have just announced they are looking into an appropriate cooperation model aimed at starting production of energy from farm manure. In Finland, carbon footprints for food and traffic are a hot topic. Traffic accounts for a fifth of Finland’s greenhouse emissions while milk’s share of the emissions is around 4 percent. The companies intent to work together in finding a solution to combat the climate challenge. In general, cow manure can be used to generate biogas, which can then replace the fossil fuels commonly used in transportation.

Reducing its milk chain’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035 is in the plans of Valio, which is owned by Finnish dairy farms. Valio relies on two ways in reaching this ambitious goal. First by binding more atmospheric carbon dioxide in grass fields and second by generating biogas from manure to replace fossil fuels.

Commenting on turning cow manure into biogas Juha Nousiainen, Valio’s director for the carbon neutral milk chain, said:

“It’s great that a larger group of Finns want to make environmentally sustainable choices. Our mission is to find new ways to reduce milk’s environmental effect. Valio is owned by 5,000 Finnish dairy farms with cooperatives in between. Our calculations show that if we used the manure from all our farms to make biogas, the volume would be enough to fuel the farm machinery and Valio’s milk collection trucks. Recycling manure into biogas could, therefore, reduce milk’s carbon footprint by up to 50 percent. This would reduce the use of fossil fuels as well as methane emissions, generated during manure storage and use.”

In Finland, more than 15 million tonnes of manure are generated every year, volume believed to be enough for larger-scale biogas production. At this moment, however, using manure in biogas production is not profitable in Finland as market has not taken off. Governments of other Nordic countries are providing subsidies in order for the manure to be used as both an ingredient for biogas and as recycled fertiliser, enabling a better nutrient cycle.

Commenting on the partnership, Matti Oksanen, Gasum’s director for business development, said:

“As the largest biogas producer in the Nordics, working together with Valio is a natural solution for us to create solutions for a circular economy. Gasum invests strongly in growing its gas refuelling station network in Finland and the other Nordics. Biogas production must increase to meet traffic emissions reduction targets. We have worked with Valio before. Valio has recently rolled out its first biogas-fuelled distribution and milk collection trucks. Both trucks run on Gasum’s biogas, which uses, among other things, waste from Valio’s dairies as raw material.”

In December 2018, Finland’s Ministry of Transport and Communications released an action plan outlining the changes in Finland’s transportation towards 100% renewable fuel by 2045. Increasing renewable fuels, including biogas, is seen as one of the solutions. Furthermore, Finland’s government has set a goal to have 50% of our farms’ manure recycled by 2025.

More information on the cooperation between Valio and Gasum will be revealed over the course of this year, but building a shared biogas plant, or a network of several plants is one option under consideration. While considering the options, Valio and Gasum continue with the design of their shared plant at Nivala, in Finland’s Ostrobothnia region. The project is in the planning stage and an investment decision on the Nivala plant has not yet been made.

Turning liquid manure into both clean water and easily transportable, organic-approved phosphorus and nitrogen fertiliser fractions that are easy to spread was, first in the world, patented as a method by Valio in 2017.

Producing biogas from dry manure fractions and other milk chain side flows can use the same process. Among the benefits are: using slurry as a fertiliser gets easier, nutrient cycling becomes more efficient, and the runoff of nutrients decreases.

According to Valio, the method differs from current separation processes in that it’s possible to remove most of the water from the fertiliser fractions and turning the energy in manure to biogas. Valio’s milk component processing know-how is used in the manure nutrient separation process.

Furthermore, recycling manure into energy can reduce our use of fossil fuels. According to the Luke Natural Resources Intitute Finland, The Finnish Normative Manure System, Finland produces roughly 15 million tonnes of manure every year. Second, we need new solutions for mineral recycling as world’s reserves of phosphorus are dwindling quickly. Aside the energy, manure contains valuable nutrients that plants need such as nitrogen and phosphorus. By recycling the phosphorus and nitrogen in manure will help us to use fewer chemical fertilisers. And third, liquid manure needs large slurry tanks and wide fields to spread the manure on. Expanding milk producer’s farm will also require larger fields. Buying new fields, however, makes little business sense, if existing fields can produce a sufficient harvest. Cutting down forests for fields just to spread manure is not environmentally sustainable.

SOURCE: Valio

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