NORTHERN IRELAND’S oldest creamery, Ballyrashane, officially opened a £3.5m ground breaking ‘green energy’ facility that uses organic dairy waste to generate electricity.
According to the Coleraine-based creamery the Anaerobic Digestor plant, which is the first of its kind in the Province, will transform its business, provide important new income streams for local farmers and sustain current employment levels.
Ballyrashane Chief Executive Nigel Kemps, told guests who attended the official opening of the plant on Wednesday: “This is a tremendously exciting and privately-funded initiative which will radically reduce our energy costs as well as generating sufficient electricity to run the entire Ballyrashane facility whilst enabling our processing operation to run completely carbon free.”
The new purpose-built plant sits on a four acre site at the company’s existing farm premises near the current Ballyrashane production facility.
This plant utilises Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Tank Technology to produce renewable biogas from creamery wastes, energy crops and cattle slurry from local farms. This will generate more than 7 million kWh of electricity and additional process heat through combined heat and power technology.
The process will also provide odour free Bio-fertiliser as a by-product for use in local farming production.
The project was designed by the Ballyrashane Creamery Energy Team, headed by Ian Campbell, Operations and Environmental Manager, with analysis and detailed design undertaken by the Carbon Trust Northern Ireland.
Mr Kemps went on to explain: “We are delighted to be the first dairy company in Northern Ireland to invest in this exciting technology. This is a proven process that has worked extremely successfully in other parts of the world.
“The Carbon Trust identified the project as unique to the sector given the co-operation between the dairy and local farmers. It is a unique model and demonstrates an innovative approach to cutting costs, reliance on fossil fuels and our carbon footprint. The Carbon Trust has assisted us with the project from the start, carrying out an initial feasibility study to prove the concept.”
At the official opening Mr Kemps paid tribute to all of those involved in delivering the ambitious scheme.
“On behalf of the Ballyrashane Co-op Board and members I’d like to pay tribute to Ian Campbell and his team who have ensured this demanding project has been delivered successfully in line with what were quite ambitious timelines. He was greatly supported by Martin and Hamilton the main contractors and Grant’s Electrical who had to work through some very difficult weather conditions during last autumn and winter but managed to deliver the project on time.
“I’d also like to place on record our appreciation of Minister Attwood for his support during the planning application process and, of course, Minister Foster who has been a strong advocate of local business for many years and in particular during her time as Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment.
“Invest Northern Ireland, for which she has responsibility, has delivered both financial and advisory assistance to Ballyrashane for a number of years and helped our business grow to its current levels.
“Planning a project of this nature has not been without its challenges and that’s where local support and understanding was vitally important.
“So I would also like to place on the record our deep appreciation to our neighbours, local community figures and public representatives for their interest in and support of our work here.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is an important and highly innovative project, which will undoubtedly set an example to other local companies concerned about environmental obligations, while wishing to strengthen their overall competitiveness by reducing energy costs.
“The willingness by management and members of Ballyrashane Co-operative to invest in this important technology is a clear statement of their intent to drive faster growth. It is an excellent example of the vision and ambition that I am keen to encourage and support.
“The dairy industry remains a vitally important sector within agri-food, our biggest industry and a major source of export earnings. The benefits that will flow for Ballyrashane will result in the company strengthening its product portfolio and its business from customers outside Northern Ireland, further enhancing its already substantial contribution to the Coleraine area and the wider economy.”
Environment Minister, Alex Attwood said: “I firmly believe that renewable energy is our single biggest economic opportunity. This development is a fine example of this as it provides the Creamery with an opportunity to invest in sustainable Green Technology to provide renewable energy from production at the Creamery. This reduces Carbon Dioxide emissions by over 3500 tonnes a year whilst consolidating 150 jobs – good news for Coleraine, for the environment and for the economy.”
Ballyrashane is an independent Co-operative owned and run by local farmers. It was founded in 1896 and is an integral part of its local rural community. It is a significant processor of milk and cream and its products are sold worldwide.
Last year the business, which employs 150 people had a turnover of £82m.
Ballyrashane produces milk for the Henderson Group, Marks & Spencer and also for its own Ballyrashane brand label. As a major manufacturer of butter in Northern Ireland, its butter is sold globally as well as locally to retail outlets. In recent years the company has been developing speciality cheeses which are currently supplied to the Greek and Italian markets.