Fonterra’s Stirling cheese site goes for cancel coal-ture

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Stirling is the third fuel switching project Fonterra has undertaken in as many years.  Pic: Fonterra
Stirling is the third fuel switching project Fonterra has undertaken in as many years. Pic: Fonterra

Related tags: Fonterra, Sustainability

As New Zealand Minister for Energy and Resources Hon Dr Megan Woods officially opened Fonterra’s wood pellet boiler at its Te Awamutu plant, the cooperative announced details for its next site to exit coal – the Stirling cheese plant in Otago.

The plant will be coal free and using wood biomass to fire the site by August next year.

This will make Stirling, which supplies products to more than 10 countries, Fonterra’s first 100% renewable thermal energy site, which Fonterra said is a step towards its goal of getting out of coal all together by 2037.

By switching to wood biomass, the site’s annual emissions will reduce by 18,500 tonnes of CO2​.

Fonterra general manager Operations Lower South Island, Richard Gray, said, “Sustainability is at the heart of our strategy, and this project is something that will be good for the environment and local community. As well as the site being coal free there are additional environmental benefits the new boiler will bring, including reduction in wastewater, noise, solid waste to landfill and air discharge emissions.

“There are also economic benefits for the community – the installation will contribute more than NZ$10m (US$7m) into the region, along with supporting an estimated 10 jobs in the wood biomass industry.”

The wood biomass will be sourced from Pioneer Energy, which is locally owned by Central Lakes Trust. The Trust distributes grants to charitable causes in the Central Otago region.

Pioneer Energy CEO, Fraser Jonker said, “Pioneer Energy has a proven record for the installation of new, and conversion of existing, boilers to biomass, and with our own wood fuel division assuring quality and security of local supply for the fuel, have mitigated any perceived risk of making this very important transition to a low carbon future."

Stirling is the third fuel switching project Fonterra has undertaken in as many years.

The conversion of Fonterra’s Te Awamutu site to wood pellets has resulted in a 10% reduction in coal use, and at Brightwater at the top of the South Island, the team is co-firing wood biomass.

The three projects, when combined with other energy efficiency work, will reduce the coop’s emissions by 135,000 tonnes.

With this latest announcement, eight of Fonterra’s 29 sites are still using coal.

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