'The equivalent of taking 18,500 cars off the road': Fonterra's latest move to reduce carbon emissions

Dairy giant Fonterra believes its latest initiative to cut carbon emissions could make the difference of the equivalent of taking 18,500 cars off the road.

The co-operative's Te Awamutu site has just completed a trial to run its existing coal boiler exclusively on wood pellets. 

Fonterra COO for global operations, Robert Spurway told Rural Exchange's Dominic George that moving to wood pellets would help in seriously reducing carbon emissions and move the co-op closer to hitting its climate change targets.

"The trial showed there are a few kinks to be ironed out. For example, we'll need to figure out how to keep the wood pellets dry," he said. 

"But right now, it's looking like we can reduce our carbon emissions by around 84,000 tonnes per year," said Spurway. 

"That is the equivalent of taking 18,500 cars off the road."

Wood pellets have been used instead of coal at the Te Awamutu plant.
Wood pellets have been used instead of coal at the Te Awamutu plant. Photo credit: Supplied

Figures from the Ministry for the Enviroment show nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture.

It said the the main source of agriculture emissions is methane from livestock digestive systems, which makes up makes up almost three quarters of our agriculture emissions. 

The next largest source is nitrous oxide from nitrogen added to soils, followed by manure management.

Fonterra has a target of reducing emissions by 30 percent across all operations by 2030, with a goal to achieve net zero by 2050. 

He said reducing emissions was important to the co-op.

"The community is talking about it, and dairy farmers are committed to it across our value chain."

"Dairy farming in New Zealand is one of the most efficient in the world, but we are up to doing even more and challenging ourselves."

Pellets are delivered to the plant.
Pellets are delivered to the plant. Photo credit: Supplied

Spurway predicts the dairy industry will continue to evolve to become even more environmentally friendly.

"I think we'll see both incremental changes and new innovations and technologies."

Fonterra recently converted 150 Fonterra milk tankers in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions to a new bio-fuel, which also reduces emissions.

The fuel is supplied from Z Energy, which has built New Zealand's first commercial scale bio-diesel plant.

The plant uses a process which turns an unwanted tallow product, usually exported to make soap and candles, to make the high quality diesel.

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