May 28, 2013 • By

‘Oat power’ fuels another environmental award

General Mills’ biomass boiler at our oat milling facility in Fridley, Minn., has once again been recognized for its innovative use of oat hulls as a power source.

Last week, the Environmental Initiative in Minnesota recognized General Mills as one of six winners at its 2013 awards celebration.

“To our knowledge, this is the first biomass facility in the United States to burn nothing but oat hulls as a fuel source,” wrote the Environmental Initiative in its announcement of the award.

The initiative annually honors projects that have achieved extraordinary outcomes for Minnesota’s environment.

A team from General Mills was on hand to receive the award at a ceremony held at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis on May 23.

Pictured from left to right are Terry Gilchrist, operations leader; Darren Smith, Global Safety and Environment director; Catherine Gunsbury, CSR director; Gregg Stedronsky, vice president of Engineering and Global Safety and Environment; John Hellweg, a General Mills retiree who spearheaded the project; Trent Novak, project engineer, Jeff Hanratty, technical leader; and Larry Deeney, senior technical leader. (Photo by Megan Dobratz of studioTart.)

The biomass unit at our Fridley plant burns leftover oat hulls to produce more than 90 percent of the steam needed to heat the plant and produce the oat flour used in making Cheerios. It has also reduced the plant’s carbon footprint by 21 percent and creates an ash that is distributed to local farmers who use it to improve soil on agricultural land.

The facility is part of General Mills’ overall strategy to reduce our environmental footprint. Since fiscal 2005, we’ve reduced our energy usage rate by 11 percent with a goal to trim that rate to 20 percent by fiscal 2015.

To learn more, check out this video of how General Mills has tapped into the hidden power of oats.

This was not the first win for the project. In 2011, the Grocery Manufacturers Association awarded General Mills its “CPG Award for Innovation and Creativity.”