Whey from cheese becomes biogas

Friday, March 30, 2022

It takes about four liters of milk to make a kilogram of cream cheese, and since Arla Holstebro Flødeost produces 200 million units of cream cheese annually, there is a lot of whey left over. The dairy produces about 98,000 tons of whey from cheese annually, and from now on Maabjerg BioEnergy will convert it to 3.5 to 4 million cubic meters of biogas.


Project leader Nikolaj Jørgensen, Arla Holstebro Flødeost, and works manager Viggo Mose, Maabjerg BioEnergy, open the valve and send the first whey from cheese out to the biogas plant. Photo: Jens Bach.

The pumps in the cellar under Arla's cheese dairy have just started pumping whey out to the nearby biogas plant, after a new 2.7 km pipeline was declared ready earlier in the week.


"Even though this is happening underground, people will notice the difference at street level," explains the head of the dairy, Lene Bjerg Jacobsen. "Previously, the whey was transported by truck to farms in the area, where it was used as feed. The pipeline means that local road traffic and the air we breathe is spared 135 000 km of truck driving every year."


At this stage, only one of the two parallel pipelines has been commissioned. After Easter, a filtration plant will be installed at Maabjerg BioEnergy, and then the valves can be opened to the other pipeline, which will transport a further 20 tons per hour of whey to the biogas plant.


"This whey, with a higher water content, will be useful as more than just a raw material for biogas production," explains Maabjerg BioEnergy's works manager, Viggo Mose.


"The filtration plant extracts a large amount of water that can be used in the process at Maabjerg BioEnergy. This means that we can save about 50 000 cubic meters of waterworks water annually, which will benefit the environment significantly."


At the same time, an alkaline by-product of cheese production can be used to clean the pipes and the filtration machine. Afterwards, the alkaline flushing water will be neutralized in the biogas plant, where there is natural acidification. In this way, the biomass from Arla Holstebro Flødeost will make it unnecessary for Maabjerg BioEnergy to buy and use industrial chemical products, since everything will be done using natural processes.


Neither Arla nor Maabjerg BioEnergy wishes to disclose the economic details of the agreement, but both parties feel that they have a good deal. Arla's project leader, production and technology development engineer Nikolaj Jørgensen, confirms that the cooperation also has been good at the practical level. 


"Normally we work with a single external partner or maybe two. Here we had a chain of subcontractors, who were involved in setting up the pipeline and the process. It has been really exciting to be involved, and it has run really smoothly," he said.


Maabjerg BioEnergy is currently continuing commissioning. In time, the plant will treat 650 000 tons of biomass annually, and produce just under 18 million cubic meters of biogas. The transition from commissioning to normal operations will be celebrated at the plant's official opening on 18 June 2012.


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Siden er opdateret Thursday, April 19, 2022