AstraZeneca is partnering with Vanguard Renewables to enable the delivery of renewable natural gas (RNG) to all its sites in the United States by the end of 2026.
Starting in June 2023, AstraZeneca will begin purchasing RNG produced by Vanguard Renewables for its Newark Campus in Delaware, where the company packages 26 medicines for distribution across the United States and makes medicine formulations for global supply. By 2026, this collaboration will enable as much as 650,000 MMBtu, or 190,500 MWh per year, of RNG to be used across AstraZeneca’s US sites, equivalent to the energy required to heat more than 17,800 US homes for a year.
“We recognize the interconnection between the health of people and the planet and are committed to driving deep decarbonization across our operations and value chain,” said Pam Cheng, executive vice president of Global Operations & IT and chief sustainability officer at AstraZeneca. “Our innovative partnership with Vanguard Renewables in the United States 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.”
AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development, and commercialization of prescription medicines in oncology, rare diseases, and biopharmaceuticals, including cardiovascular, renal and metabolism, and respiratory and immunology. The company 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 decarbonization 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 Ambition Zero Carbon program.
The company is on track to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its global operations (Scope 1 and 2) by 98% by 2026 from a 2015 baseline. By 2030, AstraZeneca aims to halve its entire value chain footprint on the way to becoming science-based net zero by 2045 at the latest. The use of RNG at AstraZeneca sites in the United States will further enable the company’s transition to 100% renewable energy for heat and power.
Vanguard Renewables develops food and dairy waste-to-renewable energy projects. The company owns and operates on-farm anaerobic digester facilities in the northeast and currently operates manure-only digesters in the south and west for Dominion Energy. Vanguard Renewables plans to expand nationwide to more than 120+ anaerobic digestion facilities by 2026. The agreement with AstraZeneca will utilize 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 (see “Cow Power,” April 2023 Gas Compression Magazine, p. 34). 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 AD process, inedible or unsaleable food and beverage waste from the manufacturing and retail sectors is collected, sorted, depackaged on-site, and combined with dairy farm manure in a sealed biodigester tank. Once combined in the biodigester, microorganisms that naturally occur in manure digest the waste, converting sugars, fats, and other compounds into biogas. Harnessing the waste’s energy captures as much as 95% of the potential GHG emissions that would result if food and beverage waste was sent to a landfill or if the farm manure was field applied. The process produces biogas that is upgraded to pipeline-quality RNG that is then injected into the existing pipeline infrastructure on-site, displacing traditional fossil fuels.
Through the partnership with Vanguard Renewables, AstraZeneca will access high-quality RNG from three on-farm anaerobic digester facilities across the United States for the next 15 years or more.
“Vanguard Renewables is excited to partner with AstraZeneca on this transformative business-to-business clean energy solution,” said Neil H. Smith, chief executive officer at Vanguard Renewables. “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 toward global decarbonization.”
This collaboration will use food and waste from local and family-owned farms, supporting rural communities across the United States. By capturing methane from dairy operations that would have otherwise ended up in the atmosphere, this partnership also reduces pollution from the farming sector.
The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas founder and CEO, Johannes Escudero, joined AstraZeneca and Coalition member, Vanguard Renewables in DC for the announcement.
“Vanguard Renewables and AstraZeneca have demonstrated incredible leadership by engaging in this deal that serves as an example of decarbonizing Scope 1 gas demand,” said Johannes Escudero, founder and CEO of the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas. “With an increasing number of organizations pursuing long-term decarbonization strategies, RNG is the primary option for those who need a carbon-neutral replacement for natural gas.
“AstraZeneca now plays a key role in recycling food waste, eliminating methane emissions, and circularizing our economy — advancing our mission and charting a path for other companies to follow in the quest to achieve net-zero today.”
Vanguard Renewables has been working with multi-generational dairy farms and food and beverage manufacturers since 2014, providing sustainable solutions to GHG emissions challenges by diverting food waste from landfills and sequestering on-farm emissions. Vanguard’s Farm Powered process provides dairy farmers across the United States with an additional revenue stream via land lease, supports regenerative agriculture practices, and helps ensure these farms will be operating for years to come.