UK dairy processor using cow manure as fuel

By: Chris McCullough

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A UK dairy processor will keep trying to use cow manure as a renewable energy source after a successful three-month trial.

A dairy processing company in the UK is trying to develop long-term use of ‘poo power’ instead of diesel to run some of its milk tankers in a bid to cut its carbon footprint.

Farmer-owned Arla says it also wants to further use this renewable energy source more in homes and ‘patteries’ following a successful trial last year.

That trial saw the company convert the manure from 500 cows into 27,000kg of biofuel to power its delivery trucks; as well as developing a fuel station on one of the farms that supply Arla with milk.


Arla has been using biofuel from cow manure to run some of its milk tankers

Arla said the three-month trial reduced its carbon impact by 80 tonnes during that time period, helping boost the company’s sustainability efforts.

This trial marked the first time farmers were able to send their cow manure to a nearby anaerobic digestion plant, where it was broken down into different components, including clean bio-methane, and converted into usable fuel.

The trial makes Arla the first UK business to use waste from its own farms to generate power for its fleet. The process also created nutrient rich, natural fertiliser, which Arla farmers could put back on to farms, making it an entirely closed loop, something that hasn’t been done before.

The three-month test involved two special Arla tankers that had been adapted to run on biofuel transporting milk between dairy processing sites. Together, they covered around 90,000km and helped reduce Arla’s carbon impact by 80 tonnes, the equivalent to 23 car journeys around the world.

Proving that muck is just as important as milk, Arla used manure from 500 cows, which is around 190 tonnes of slurry each week, to create the 27,000kg of biofuel to power the trial vehicles.


The farmers involved saying using manure as an alternative fuel has been a 'win-win'

Arla launched the UK’s first cow-powered fuel station on one of the farms taking part in Winslow, Bucks.

Arla farmer Ian Barker, who was involved in the trial, says: "Many of us recognise how valuable a cow’s milk is, but many aren’t aware that manure is just as important. Processing cow manure in this manner provides us with a limitless source of energy, plus the digestate, or solid matter, left over after the process makes an even richer fertiliser for my fields, so it’s a win-win."

Graham Wilkinson, Arla agriculture director, adds: "Using manure from our farms is helping us reduce our waste and rely less on air-polluting fossil fuels so it’s a no brainer for us. With the help of our farmers and partners, we have a fully closed loop, which, at scale, could be revolutionary in helping fuel a greener future."

Arla is using the trial to assess opportunities for scaling up poo-powered transport opportunities across its value chain and for other uses of energy.

"The trial we ran last year on the tankers was really successful but replicating this at scale takes a lot of time and investment," says Arla.

"We will be increasing our work in this area but, like our work on renewable energy using cow poo, to scale we need a much broader conversation with government around the UK’s energy infrastructure."

Arla is also investigating the opportunities of using the slurry from its 460,000 cows to power over 1.2m UK homes each year. It has also created AA-size rechargeable ‘cow patteries’ as an extra renewable energy solution.


A three-month trial using the alternative fuel cut the carbon impact by 80 tonnes compared to diesel

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