US: Pharmaceutical giant turns to dairy sector to cut carbon

10-07-2023 | |
AstraZeneca began purchasing the Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) produced by Vanguard Renewables. Vanguard Renewables will work with dairy farmers and food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and distributors to produce RNG using farm-based anaerobic digestion (AD) from food and dairy cow manure. Photo: Chris McCullough
AstraZeneca began purchasing the Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) produced by Vanguard Renewables. Vanguard Renewables will work with dairy farmers and food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and distributors to produce RNG using farm-based anaerobic digestion (AD) from food and dairy cow manure. Photo: Chris McCullough

One of the world’s pharmaceutical giants is using dairy cow manure and food waste to help reduce its reliance on natural gas and cut carbon emissions.

UK drug company, AstraZeneca, is partnering up with Vanguard Renewables in Massachusetts to use biogas for heat and power in all its US-based research and manufacturing facilities by the end of 2026.

In June this year, AstraZeneca began purchasing the Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) produced by Vanguard Renewables for its Newark Campus in Delaware, where the company packages 26 medicines for distribution across the US and makes medicine formulations for global supply.

Then, by 2026, this collaboration will enable as much as 650,000 million British thermal units (MMBtu), or 190,500 megawatt hours (MWh) per year of RNG to be used across AstraZeneca’s US sites, equivalent to the energy required to heat more than 17,800 homes across the US for a year.

Pam Cheng, chief sustainability officer at AstraZeneca, said: “We recognise the interconnection between the health of people and the planet, and are committed to driving deep decarbonisation across our operations and value chain.

“Our innovative partnership with Vanguard Renewables in the US is an illustration of how we are collaborating at scale to deliver sustainable science and medicines, as part of the transition to net zero health systems and a circular economy.”

Lowering emissions

AstraZeneca says is taking a science-led, patient-centric approach to deliver improved health outcomes with a lower environmental footprint. As heat and power are critical to the manufacture of medicines, the decarbonisation of healthcare requires access to clean sources of heat, such as RNG.

This new partnership with Vanguard Renewables is an important milestone in delivering emissions reductions in line with AstraZeneca’s flagship Ambition Zero Carbon programme.

The company is on track to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its global operations by 98% by 2026 from a 2015 baseline, and by 2030, AstraZeneca aims to halve its entire value chain footprint on the way to becoming science-based ​net zero by 2045. The use of RNG at AstraZeneca sites in the US will further enable the company’s transition to 100% renewable energy for heat and power.

Dairy farmers and cow manure

This agreement will utilise Vanguard Renewables Farm Powered process, allowing Vanguard Renewables to work with dairy farmers and food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and distributors to produce RNG using farm-based anaerobic digestion (AD) from food and dairy cow manure.

Once the RNG is produced and captured through AD, it will be injected into existing natural gas infrastructure for use in AstraZeneca medicines research and manufacturing processes.
Through the partnership with Vanguard Renewables, AstraZeneca will access high-quality RNG from 3 on-farm anaerobic digester facilities across the US for the next 15 years or more.

Neil Smith, Vanguard Renewables’ CEO, said: “Vanguard Renewables is excited to be partnering with AstraZeneca on this transformative business-to-business clean energy solution. AstraZeneca has set a very ambitious and challenging net zero target, which is a benchmark for their sector and other global corporations. We strongly believe this partnership will provide a path for other like-minded companies to join us on the journey towards global decarbonisation.”

Methane from dairy

This collaboration will utilise food and waste from local and family-owned farms by capturing methane from dairy operations that would have otherwise ended up in the atmosphere, also reducing pollution from the farming sector.

Vanguard Renewables has been working with multi-generational dairy farms and food and beverage manufacturers since 2014, providing sustainable solutions to greenhouse gas emissions challenges by diverting food waste from landfills and sequestering on-farm emissions.

Vanguard’s Farm Powered process provides dairy farmers across the US with an additional revenue stream via land lease, supports regenerative agriculture practices, and helps to ensure that these farms will be operating for years to come.

Mccullough
Chris Mccullough Freelance multi-media journalist

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