THE Murray Goulburn (MG) factory at Leongatha is set to greatly increase its production of UHT milk at the same time as it cuts carbon emissions, thanks to major investment in energy infrastructure.
With the state government’s Regional Growth Fund contributing $1.5 million towards the upgrade, the Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional and Rural Development and Gippsland South MP Peter Ryan was a welcome guest of the dairy giant at MG’s Leongatha office last Friday.
“It may be Friday the 13th but don’t let that worry you! This is a real signature day for Leongatha and the region,” Mr Ryan told the assembled throng, including a sprinkling of MG board and staff members, South Gippsland Shire Councillors and media.
The Leongatha plant is already well on the way to increasing its production of UHT by more than 100 million litres a year. The necessary upgrade is expected to be completed by next February.
Mr Ryan announced a $22 million project to upgrade energy infrastructure and gas supply at the Leongatha site. The conversion from briquettes to natural gas will see MG cut its carbon emissions by 31,000 tonnes annually.
“This project is critical to helping secure a reliable supply of steam to provide energy, and will underpin MG’s plans to increase UHT capacity at the plant,” Mr Ryan said.
“The expansion means more regional exports, and helps to secure jobs at the plant.
“The energy switch from coal to gas will save the company money and reduce its carbon emissions by 43 per cent.”
Mr Ryan said securing the future of the MG Leongatha plant was critical to the region’s dairy supply chain, with 385 local farms supplying milk to the plant.
“The gas infrastructure upgrade will benefit gas consumers in Leongatha and has the potential to support further industry investment, specifically through the provision of upgraded city gates, 26 connection points and seven kilometres of pipeline.”
MG Chairman Phil Tracy thanked Mr Ryan, saying the Regional Growth Fund support to upgrade the natural gas supply network was critical to MG being able to use natural gas.
“It is also critical infrastructure needed to allow MG to expand our UHT capacity at Leongatha,” said Mr Tracy, adding that by expanding its UHT capacity MG would be able to improve the international competitiveness of the Leongatha site.
“Supplying products into Asia is firmly in our mindset. We know we have to operate at world’s best standards in terms of efficiency to be successful in Asia.”
He said that he expected about half of the UHT milk generated from the increased capacity to go to the growing south east Asian market.
“We are very very grateful for the state government support and will look for support from the new federal government,” added Mr Tracy.
While at Leongatha, Mr Ryan also officially opened two other recently completed MG projects funded by Regional Development Victoria.
They include the $13.5 million Leongatha Water Recycling Project, in which
Regional Development Victoria and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries invested $2 million each.
The project involved the installation of plant and equipment to recycle, treat and reuse water.
“The project reduced MG’s reliance and demand on town water and reduced the amount and load of wastewater being discharged from the plant to the Leongatha Waste Water Treatment Plant,” Mr Ryan said.
“This project delivered MG water savings of 390 ML in 2010/11 and 404 ML in 2011/12 – an excellent result.”
The $5.6 million Leongatha Water and Energy Project was also opened by Mr Ryan. Regional Development Victoria had invested $1.57 million into the project, which saw a steam turbine installed at the plant to generate electricity.
“Since the turbine became operational the cooperative has been able to save about $80,000 in energy bills and also cut carbon emissions by 1200 tonnes,” Mr Ryan said. “This is a win-win for the cooperative and the environment.”