« BackNews: Australian Food Manufacturer Makes Bioenergy Breakthrough
Australian Food Manufacturer Makes Bioenergy Breakthrough
Blue Lake Milling, a cereal oat supplier, based in Bordertown in South Australia, is to produce its own electricity using only oat husks, which will enable to company to offset all of its monthly energy costs, in what is thought to be a world-first.
reports that Blue Lake Milling completed the construction of its AU$8.1 million (£4.4 million) biogas plant in Bordertown in the last couple of weeks, and commercial projects manager Jeremy Neale said that the plant has the capacity to power both the milling facility and nearby homes.
“Two-thirds of it will go to the mill, and the remaining third will be put back into the grid,” Neale said.
“It’ll go a fair way to eliminating our electricity bill.”
With the mill operating 24 hours a day for five days of the week, the monthly energy invoices total around AU$80,000, and the mill has had recurrent issues with power reliability for a long time, prompting the move to find alternative energy sources.
“Every time we’ve looked at doing an expansion, power was a limiting factor,” he said.
“So the way around that is to obviously generate your own.”
With the biogas plants in place, Blue Lake Milling will be able to continue operations in the event of a power outage, according to Neale.
“Being [located] at the end of the power line we have a lot of brownouts,” he said.
“So being able to stay powered up and continue operations is a big factor for us, it mitigates against all those risks.”
Blue Lake Milling was established in the 1980s and employs around 120 people from Bordertown, which has a population of around 3,000. It processes over 24,000 tonnes of oat husks annually as a by-product of cereal production.
Previously, the husks were sold on as stock feed, used as packing material, or thrown away, but now they are converted into bioenergy via anaerobic digestion.
This involves microorganisms breaking down biodegradable material into mush, much like in the human stomach.
The subsequent biogas created is a mix of methane gas and carbon dioxide, which fuels an onsite generator to produce electricity and heat to power the oat mill.
While anaerobic digestion plants are common in Europe, the new facility at Blue Lake Milling is one of just five in Australia, with the others typically fed by assorted food waste.
“As well as being a more safe and reliable method of generating power, [improving] our environmental footprint and sustainability are things the company is really delving into,” Neale said.
The mill has taken other steps to reduce its carbon footprint, such as transitioning to electric forklifts from gas-powered vehicles and exploring other ways to reduce its rate impact.
“We’ll be looking at ways to redirect our landfill to other methods of disposing of waste, so more recycling and anything we can do in that space,” Neale said.
Blue Lake Milling CEO Kevin Boyle said that while the new plant would see some business savings, the improvements to sustainability were what got the project over the line.
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