Reduce your carbon footprint by utilising biogas made from cattle manure to fill a tank. Say what?
Brothers Janne and Ville Vuorenmaa and their families run a dairy farm of 180 cows in Haapavesi. Milk from the Vuorenmaa farm is used to make Valio Oltermanni® cheese at Valio’s Haapavesi cheese plant.
The Vuorenmaa dairy farm has its own biogas plant that produces about 1,200 MWh of biogas per year. Biogas has already been used to produce the electricity and heat needed at the farm, but now the biogas plant has been expanded. Initially, about half of the gas will be refined into biomethane for use in transportation. The fill-up station will be ready by the end of the year, and then the milk truck will start filling up its biogas tank at the farm. At first, there will be a limited supply of biogas available to passenger cars. As the demand grows, the refining capacity can be increased. If all the biogas were to be used by passenger cars, there would be enough for 85 cars to drive 20,000 kilometres in a year*.
“We have had our own biogas plant for 15 years. Previously, we got heat and electricity from cow manure to meet the needs of our own farm. When it was time to renew the equipment, we decided that we could expand and produce biogas also for transportation. The milk truck will start using the farm’s biogas later this year. Around the same time, a fill-up station for other motorists will be opened along Virtala road,” Janne Vuorenmaa says.
Valio is aiming to cut milk’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035. This can be achieved by reducing emissions at dairy farms, in transportation, and at plants, and by increasing the carbon sinks of fields through carbon farming; Valio and the Baltic Sea Action Group have teamed up to provide training to dairy farmers. The Vuorenmaa farm is one of the carbon farms.
“The Vuorenmaa dairy farm is a good example of how Finnish farmers can solve climate challenges. At the same time, the farms can generate new business. Utilising manure for biogas production reduces the carbon footprint of milk produced at the farm by one quarter or one fifth, depending on the way it’s calculated,” says Valio’s Juha Nousiainen, SVP, Carbon-neutral milk chain.
Using biogas can reduce as much as 85 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions created during the life cycle of fuel, compared to diesel fuel.
Manure is an Untapped Treasure
About 15 million tonnes of manure is generated in Finland every year. Its odour is familiar to most people around farms, especially in the spring. The manure smell significantly decreases in the biogas process. In addition, the manure nutrients are in a more soluble form than in ordinary manure. When the fertiliser is more effective, less purchased fertiliser is needed. And there is less nutrient runoff into water systems.
“A network of local operators has emerged around the Vuorenmaa dairy farm. The farm is located close to the Haapavesi cheese plant, so filling up along the milk truck’s route is convenient. Demeca, the supplier of the biogas plant, is a Haapavesi-based company, and so is the H. Vähäaho transport company that collects the milk with its new truck. This is local collaboration at its best,” says Marko Puhto, Managing Director of Cooperative Osuuskunta Pohjolan Maito.
“We want to create new business opportunities for farmers and elevate the valuation of the sector. Our mission is to improve the profitability of farms and the wellbeing of people and animals. With the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about Finland’s security of supply. What we have here is one way to increase fuel self-sufficiency. Today most transport fuel is imported. Demeca’s technology has been developed at our family farm here in Haapavesi. One of my big dreams will become reality when I’m able to fill up my own gas-powered vehicle in my home village, at my customer’s farm, and the money stays with the farmers—with no middle man involved,” says Demeca’s Sales Director Sami Vinkki.
“Our whole team got excited about the gas vehicle project. Our first milk truck hit the road exactly 60 years ago. It’s great to continue being part of developing the sector,” says H. Vähäaho transport company’s Sami Vähäaho.
*If all the gas were to be used for passenger cars, with average consumption, there would be enough to drive about 1.67 million kilometres, i.e. for 85 passenger cars to drive 20,000 km in a year.
About Valio—The World’s Most Innovative Dairy and Food Company
Valio’s mission is to create wellbeing and taste sensations in a responsible way. We make tasty products from milk and many other ingredients; we bring delightful tastes, variety, and joy to the food table. We also carry out important roles in society: ensuring food security, enhancing public health, and improving animal welfare are some examples of our impacts. In line with our mission, we are making life better. This is also the conclusion of the Finns who have chosen Valio as Finland’s most sustainable brand for seven consecutive years.
There are 4,700 Finnish dairy farmers who own Valio through cooperatives. We pay out all the profits to our milk producers through the milk price. We employ a total of 25,000 people at dairy farms. Valio has 4,000 professionals at work from different sectors and have more than 100 years of experience, and this combination helps us to better listen to our consumers.
Nobel Laureate A.I. Virtanen’s legacy continues to live on with us. When he headed Valio’s laboratories, the concept of improving the wellbeing of people took root as our guiding principle. We turn science into products that make life better. Consumers in more than 60 countries enjoy Valio products, and we have 350 patents for our innovations around the world. We are Finland’s biggest food exporter and a trailblazer for the whole food industry. Valio’s sales in 2019 were EUR 1,787 million.
Demeca Oy is a robustly growing Finnish expert company specialising in agricultural technology and bioenergy. Based in Haapavesi, Demeca produces smart solutions for agriculture’s manure processing and utilisation of fractions, as well as self-sufficient energy production. The company’s turnover in 2019 was EUR 5.1 million; it has more than 1,000 customers in Finland and has supplied 10 biogas plants. Demeca is currently working on three new biogas plants, and new ones will be launched this summer. The company is seeking additional capacity through a public share issue for product development and to launch export operations.
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