New Zealand: Forestry waste used to fire up the largest biomass boiler in the country

The largest biomass boiler in the country, which uses by-product waste from the commercial forestry industry, has been commissioned at Danone’s dairy plant near Balclutha in South Otago. The $30m boiler will reduce CO2 emissions by 20,000 tonnes per year at the company’s spray drying plant, which processes fresh milk sourced from twenty local farms into powder that is used as the base for production of baby formula brands including Aptamil and Karicare.

Danone’s New Zealand operations director Steve Donnelly said the conversion to the biomass boiler had not been easy for the company, especially with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is symbolic of the action required for business to contribute in an impactful way in order to realise a low-emissions, climate resilient future for New Zealand,’’ he said. “This is a significant investment for Danone and one that underscores our belief that in order to produce healthy food, we must have a healthy planet.’’ The boiler, which is about four stories high, creates about 136,000 tonnes of steam each year, producing approximately 15.5MW of thermal heat. It will use 35,000 tonnes of biomass fuel, made from chopped-up, unprocessed waste debris supplied from local forests. It’s the first boiler of scale In New Zealand to use to use by-product waste from the commercial forestry industry.

“It’s the first use of the technology in New Zealand, so its quite a big deal in the sense that it doesn’t require new forests to power,’’ Donnelly said.

The introduction of the biomass boiler means the plant has reduced its emissions by 95%, and its total emissions reductions is about 20,000 tonnes, or 10,000 cars off the road.