Fonterra’s Brightwater milk processing plant in Nelson is now co-firing on wood after the site’s newly converted boiler was officially switched on by the Minister of Energy and Resources, Hon Dr Megan Woods, today.

The conversion slashes the amount of coal used and cuts carbon emissions at the site by around 2,400 tonnes a year – roughly the same as taking 530 cars off the road.

Thanks to support from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), Fonterra has achieved a significant step in the Road Map to Transition to a Low Emissions Future, developed with the Ministry for the Environment last year.

Robert Spurway, Fonterra COO Global Operations, says the Brightwater boiler conversion is part of Fonterra’s plan to reduce emissions across all sites.

“We’ll take what we learn from this conversion and apply it to our longer-term co-firing strategy for other boilers across the country. Brightwater shows what’s possible when it comes to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.”

Mr Spurway says curtailing emissions requires a multi-faceted approach.

“We’re serious about meeting our targets to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050 across all New Zealand operations. Achieving them will involve a combination of energy options and energy efficiency gains.”

“On the electrification front, we’ve been exploring a number of options. We’ve completed a feasibility study to convert our Edendale operations to electricity and in August announced our plan to replace coal with electricity at our Stirling site in South Otago.”

Andrew Caseley, EECA’s Chief Executive, says that this project demonstrates how co-firing can be used now to reduce energy emissions for process heat.

“Co-firing has wide potential for replication with other businesses that use coal boilers, with the ultimate goal of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.”

New Zealand has an enviable history of taking a leadership position when it comes to important global issues, says Mr Spurway.

“We’re serious about supporting New Zealand’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and the global goal of keeping temperature change to well below 2 degrees. Achieving New Zealand’s climate ambitions requires a sustained and collaborative approach with business, Government and NGO’s.

“EECA support for the Brightwater boiler conversion is an example of how we can successfully work together to achieve positive outcomes for the environment.”

Photo: EECA CEO Andrew Caseley, Fonterra Brightwater Site Manager Chris Win, Energy & Resources Minister Dr Megan Woods, Fonterra Head of Manufacturing Alan Van Der Nagel.