Australia’s Golden Circle boosts environmental benefits for Heinz and saves money as it steps up use of green energy biogas from wastewater.

Australian canned fruit and fruit drinks company Golden Circle is planning to install a larger boiler to take better advantage of biogas produced from the anaerobic processing of wastewater from the factory’s food processing plant in Northgate, Queensland.

“The existing boiler burns around 30 per cent of the biogas produced. The new boiler, when completed and running before the end of 2011, will utilise about 90 per cent of the generated biogas,” said Jason Carter, Environmental Manager – Northgate.

Golden Circle’s wastewater plant – including a third digester utilising CST Wastewater Solutions’ and GWE’s high efficiency anaerobic technology to produce biogas – has already saved Golden Circle more than $2 million a year in effluent disposal since the plant was upgraded to cope with increasing production volumes.

The Golden Circle biogas utilisation project from anaerobic treatment of wastewater is applicable to a wide range of industries in food processing, and canning, beverage production, brewing and fermentation, agro processing and biofuels (vegetables, beet sugar, starch, palm oil), pulp and paper, and petrochemical production.

Golden Circle, owned by H J Heinz Co Australia, manufactures more than 400 products, including shelf-stable fruit and vegetables, fruit juices and cordials.

At its main processing operation at Northgate, a northern suburb of Brisbane, Golden Circle operates an Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) wastewater treatment plant. Wastewater fed into the UASB treatment plant is mainly from Golden Circle’s fruit processing operations. Solid matter is first separated out as much as possible, leaving mostly dissolved fruit sugars.

Two digesters were installed in 1989, while a third digester from Global Water Engineering (GWE) was added in 1996 to cope with increasing production volumes at the plant.

“The UASB plant has reduced the concentration of fruit sugars in the effluent, saving us $2 million a year in discharge fees, although there is still some daily discharge to the Queensland Urban Utilities sewage treatment system,” Mr Carter said.

Biogas from the Northgate factory began to be utilised in the late 1990s to contribute to the steam needs of the operation, after previously being flared off. The biogas presently feeds a 3.5 MW boiler that produces about 5 tonnes of steam per hour, used for cooking foods, pasteurisation and sterilisation.

Biogas from the wastewater treatment plant doesn’t supply all of the Northgate factory’s steam needs, but supplements the steam produced by burning coal.

“At the moment, the burnt biogas is offsetting about 5 per cent of coal usage, while the new boiler will offset 15 per cent,” Mr Carter said.

“Coal was a cheap fuel for producing steam when we began treating our wastewater in the 1990s, so the need to supplement coal with biogas wasn’t there. However energy prices are rising and the need to curb greenhouse emissions is growing. This means that our investment in a new boiler to utilise most of the biogas is now viable.”


Golden Circle, Brisbane

Golden Circle, Brisbane Qld