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Berkeley Lab Benchmarking Tool Helps Dairy Processors Find Energy and Water Savings

As the nation's largest milk producer, California dairy farms constitute one of the most important sectors of the state's economy. Because dairy processors are energy- and water-intensive, the Industrial / Agricultural / Water Energy-Use Energy Efficiency group of the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program began to work with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to help dairy processors identify areas where they could trim costs by saving energy and water.

Dairy Cows

Journal articles of the work were published in Energy and Energy Policy, and the project culminated in the development of BEST-Dairy, a tool for benchmarking energy and water use. BEST-Dairy helps the processors compile their energy and water use data and compare it to the best references in the tool. It provides a quick assessment of relative energy and water efficiency that dairy processors can use to identify savings opportunities, in the plant and in individual processes.

"We conducted an extensive literature search of public data in many countries, looking at the energy intensity for each product, the process, and the process steps," says Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD)'s Investigator Tengfang Xu, who led the project team and developed the tool with Jing Ke, with assistance from Joris Flapper, Klaas Jan Kramer, and Jayant Sathaye. "Given that there has been very limited data available from California dairy processors, we compiled and used national and international data as the reference data for the tool."

Focusing on four products (fluid milk, butter, cheese, and powder milk), the team decided to offer users three assessment options: (1) plant-level (requiring only overall energy and water use data), (2) process block-level (requiring data for a series of steps, or "blocks," and (3) process step-level (requiring detailed data at every process step).

The tool, which was released in mid-May, is free. Users simply enter 12 months of data into an Excel spreadsheet, and it automatically compares the plant's energy and water use to that of the best available reference; showing benchmarking scores for water and energy use, as well as their potential savings and associated cost savings. Xu envisions that dairy processors also can use the tool to assess changes in their energy and water use efficiency over time or, if a company has several plants, they can benchmark their plants against each other, identify the most efficient, and implement the most efficient processes among all their dairies. The dairy processor energy studies and the BEST-Dairy tool are attracting interest from European and South American companies, as well as from Californian and U.S. dairy processing plants. Xu would like to see the tool used much more widely, which eventually will benefit the dairy processing industry in California and in other countries.

"We're in a diligent search for more data," says Xu. "There are still not nearly enough—especially from California dairy processors. We encourage all users to contribute their data to help populate more reference data in the tool. Any data we receive are confidential and presented anonymously."

—Mark Wilson




For more information, contact:

  • Tim Xu
  • (510) 486-7810

Administrative Assistance:

  • Barbara Adams
  • (510) 486-5958

Additional information:

BEST Dairy Tool and report, "User's Manual for BEST-Dairy: Benchmarking and Energy/Water-Saving Tool (BEST) for the Dairy Processing Industry. BEST-Dairy Version 1.2." by Xu, Tengfang, Jing Ke, and Jayant Sathaye.

Xu, Tengfang, and Joris Flapper. 2011. "Reduce Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Dairy Processing Facilities." Energy Policy 39: 234-247.

Xu, Tengfang, Joris Flapper, and Jan Kramer. 2009. "Characterization of Energy Use and Performance of Global Cheese Processing." Energy 34(11): 1993-2000.

Xu, Tengfang, and Joris Flapper. "Energy Use and Implications for Efficiency Strategies in Global Fluid-Milk Processing Industry." 2009. Energy Policy 37: 5334-5341.

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