Many Europeans come to the States to visit our National Park System and explore our natural wonders.  I met several of them as I ventured across the country last month and spent a few weeks in Utah’s five national parks.  Utah is quite expansive, and these parks are very remote and protected from industry. In Europe, however, the natural wonders must coexist with industry since land is limited.  A large dairy industry known as First Milk Creamery is located in the rural county of Cumbria, only a stone’s throw from the boundary of Lake District National Park in northwest England. This National Park is the largest in the UK and it possesses England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike) and deepest lake (Wastwater) along with Herdwick sheep and red deer.  The creamery has recently decommissioned an outdated aerobic treatment facility and replaced it with a more efficient anaerobic digestion (AD) plant.  It is the first AD plant in Europe that is feeding the natural gas grid exclusively from cheese waste residues.  At full capacity, the plant is expected to treat 1650 cubic meters of wastewater per day (nearly 0.5 million gallons) and produce approximately 5 MW of thermal energy.  Each day nearly 800 cubic meters of biogas is upgraded to biomethane and fed into the local gas grid operated by North Sea Gas, while the remaining 200 cubic meters are sent to the on-site combined heat and power system to help offset the energy requirements for the facility.  The British company responsible for building and implementing the technology is Clearfleau.  Initial investment costs were roughly 10 million British pounds, with anticipated savings and revenue amounting to 3 million British pounds per year.  Although two thirds of the savings are based on government incentives, these opportunities provide optimization of the AD technology with innovative feedstocks in environmentally sensitive areas.  For some of you that may be wondering, yes, the UK is still part of the EU (at least until June 23).  The two English couples that I shared my campfire with in Capitol Reef National Park, however, are convinced that they are finished…

For more information on the project, you can explore the following links:

Wendy Mussoline, PhD, PE
Bioenergy and Sustainability Technology Lab