Kraft Foods has commissioned an innovative food wastewater treatment facility at a US cheese plant, which it claims will reduce waste by more than 90 per cent, writes Anthony Fletcher.
The water treatment and cheese whey anaerobic treatment system, designed and operated by Ecovation, will also allow for the installation of new equipment to capture and use the waste treatment gases to generate electricity.
The announcement comes as food manufacturers experience ever-greater pressure to meet new climate control regulations, reduced emission targets and better waste disposal.
The installation has been funded by a System Benefits Charge (SBC), which is paid by electric distribution customers in the New York region. NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, administers SBC funds and programmes under an agreement with the Public Service Commission.
"NYSERDA has been working with the Ecovation engineers for several years, developing food processing waste treatment strategies," said NYSERDA president Peter Smith. "This project began in 2001 as a commercial-scale pilot facility, and has become an important waste-treatment benchmark for the dairy and cheese industry all across the State."
He explained that the next phase, expanding the capacity and installing a co-generation system that uses methane gas to generate electricity and heat for plant processing, is ready to be carried out. Governor George Pataki has announced a $960,000 NYSERDA contract with Ecovation to install a combined heat and power (CHP) generation system, valued at nearly $3 million, for the Kraft plant.
The system will generate a full one megawatt of electricity and simultaneously provide heat for plant processing. This system represents about a 70 per cent efficiency gain over traditional electric power consumption; it will help control energy costs and benefit the environment by reducing landfill disposal volume and costs. It will also permit the retirement of a less-efficient natural gas-fired boiler.
"When NYSERDA projects reduce wastes, improve energy efficiency, help our environment, and set an example for other industrial plants in the State, then they have achieved the goal set for us by Governor Pataki," Smith said.
There has been great excitement about this project, as it is seen by many as a statement of what manufacturers must do if they are to become responsible corporate entities.
State agriculture commissioner Nathan Rudgers said: "While the agricultural industry in New York produces a wholesome and abundant food supply, the leadership and support provided by Governor Pataki and NYSERDA have made our industry more efficient. These systems recycle waste to fuel, and help business meet energy needs through the use of anaerobic treatment.
"Manure from dairy farms, and now whey waste from cheese processing, is being converted to fuel and power, and I applaud this smart use of resources that will help make this State more energy independent in the future."
For a major food corporation, Kraft Foods has made a concerted effort to achieve greater energy efficiency. The company recently selected Rockwell Automation's Power & Energy Management Solutions (PEMS) team to develop and execute a sustained energy reduction initiative across all its manufacturing facilities in North America.
This multiyear initiative is designed to facilitate Kraft's understanding and management of how energy is used within its plants and help the company identify opportunities to reduce energy costs through lower consumption. Rockwell Automation, a leading provider of industrial automation power, control and information solutions, is therefore helping Kraft adapt to new environmental expectations.