Apr 18, 2017 • By

How our oats provide power and purpose

It’s a curious-looking piece of equipment the size of a small house, tucked into our plant in Fridley, Minnesota. Loud, hot and built to hide much of what it does inside.

It’s called a biomass boiler and it represents one of the biggest successes in our commitment to sustainability at General Mills (see our latest Global Responsibility Report).


The biomass boiler inside our plant in Fridley, Minnesota.

Since 2010, the boiler has burned thousands of tons of oat hulls, which are considered waste after we separate them from the part of the oat used to make flour for Cheerios and other products.


Oat hulls being burned, as viewed through a small window into the biomass boiler at our plant in Fridley, Minnesota.

As a result, we’ve moved away from a dependence on natural gas – burning 10 percent of our oat hulls in the boiler now provides 90 percent of the steam used to heat the Fridley plant and make oat flour. The boiler also has allowed us to stop driving hundreds of truckloads of hulls to landfills every year. And the boiler also heats the sidewalks and loading areas at the plant, to melt snow and ice in the winter.

In addition, we continue to sell thousands of tons of our oat hulls from the Cheerios supply chain to several partners for various uses. On average, two trucks an hour, 24/7, haul away the hulls.


A truck filled with oat hulls prepares to leave the loading area at our plant in Fridley, Minnesota.

We also have been repurposing the ash from the burned oat hulls on farm fields across the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, about two truckloads a week that would have gone to a landfill instead.


Oat hull ash is loaded into the back of a truck at our plant in Fridley, Minnesota.

“We’ve got a good group of farmers that we’ve worked with in the past, and their crops and what they’ve looked like after we’ve applied – it’s a real nice setup to see it go all the way through the full cycle with the ash there,” said Matt Montain, of Mountain & Company.


A farm field treated with oat hull ash delivered and spread by Mountain & Company.

Another one of our partners is Koda Energy, in Shakopee, Minnesota. They have a boiler to burn our oat hulls to power their plant in addition to a company next door to them, as well as meet the energy needs of nearly 8,000 homes nearby (just from our oat hulls) every year.

That’s true oat power.


The electrical control panels at Koda Energy in Shakopee, Minnesota.

“This is the perfect scenario, getting good resource utilization from it and benefitting society,” said Stacy Cook, general manager and vice president of operations for Koda Energy.

Cook says Koda also benefits by not having too far to go to get our oat hulls every day, reducing the miles their trucks drive.


Oat hulls from General Mills, being dumped at Koda Energy in Shakopee, Minnesota, where they will be burned in Koda’s biomass boiler.

We’re featuring our biomass burner and projects with oat hulls in the latest episode of the “A Taste of General Mills” podcast. Hear from our team at the Fridley plant, Koda Energy, and Mountain & Company.


It’s easy to listen to our show when you’re on the go. Just listen on any podcast app on your mobile device (search for General Mills) or through Apple Podcasts  or right here on our blog.

Listen (16 min)

SHOW NOTES – Episode 20: April 18, 2017

Video: Oat hulls provide power

Link: ‘Oat power’ fuels another environmental award

Link: The General Mills History Minute/5 things you didn’t know about Cheerios

Video: From Oats to O’s 

Video: Our Journey to Gluten Free

Link: 2017 Global Responsibility Report

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