World Bioenergy 2010 organises daily study tours during the conference. One of the tours focused on bioenergy from agricultural sources and stopped at Viken farm outside the town of Falköping. The farm is one of Sweden’s most modern dairy farms.
“We have 520 milking cows here and work on a long-term basis with breeding and feed trials,” says Anette Knutsson, CEO at Viken.
All the office buildings and homes on the farm – a total of 12,000 square meters (129,000 sq. ft.) of indoor space – have been heated for several years now by rapeseed (canola) oil pressed on the farm.
“The benefits are both financial and environmental,” she says.
Viken is the experimental farm of the Swedish farmers’ cooperative organisation, Lantmännen, and the Viking Genetics company for feed trials on pasture land, trials on concentrated feed, breeding projects with embryo production, and the testing of bull dams.
“A few years ago we realised we were at a crossroads,” Knutsson says. “Heating oil had become too expensive and we had to replace the 25 cubic metres of oil we used annually with something else. We looked into using chips and pellets but ended up choosing rapeseed.”
“We felt that we could get the most out of rapeseed. Maybe mostly because the byproduct that we get when we press the rapeseed – the rapeseed cake – makes excellent feed for the animals. So we get the most out of rapeseed. And with today’s costs for oil and feed, using rapeseed is a profitable business.”
30 percent oil, 70 percent feed
Reliable operation was another factor in their choice of rapeseed:
“The boiler requires very little maintenance and is very reliable. We have a number of tenants on the farm who must have heat during the winter, so this is something that just has to work, every day of the year.”
To replace the 25 cubic metres of oil that was previously used to heat the farm, some 80 tonnes of rapeseed are needed.
“About 30 percent of that becomes oil and 70 percent becomes feed,” Knutsson says.
Payback in two years
The rapeseed press and a new multi-oil boiler required an investment of about € 20,000 but the payback period was only two years, and the farm doesn’t even grow its own rapeseed.
“We need our 280 hectares to produce other feed,” Knutsson says.
Before we leave Viken, she reveals the next big environmental investment on the farm.
“A biogas facility in collaboration with Göteborg Energi. The facility will use the manure from our cows and then the raw gas will be sent via a pipeline in to Falköping to be refined into biogas.”
FACTS Cold-pressed rapeseed oil for energy recovery
The rapeseeds are delivered to a storage building and from there they are fed into the press in a constant stream. The seeds are cold pressed – that is, crushed mechanically – at relatively low temperatures to produce the oil. From one end of the press comes the rapeseed cake, which becomes feed for the animals, and from the other the oil drips out. The oil is then purified by passing through a number of containers before being fed into the boiler to be burned.