Swinkels Family Brewers in the Netherlands recently adopted a new way to heat their brewing process: melted iron. And it’s arguably sustainable. It’s not as weird as it sounds.
Essentially iron dust is set alight, which burns in a contained system and produces heat (which is used to hear water in the brewery). Once burnt, the iron basically becomes rust, which then can be turned back into usable iron using electricity. If electricity is sustainably produced then the whole system is carbon neutral.
If burning metal powder as fuel sounds strange, the next part of the process will be even more surprising. That rust can be regenerated straight back into iron powder with the application of electricity, and if you do this using solar, wind or other zero-carbon power generation systems, you end up with a totally carbon-free cycle. The iron acts as a kind of clean battery for combustion processes, charging up via one of a number of means including electrolysis, and discharging in flames and heat.
As a burnable clean energy storage medium, iron powder’s advantages include the fact that it’s cheap and abundant, the fact that it’s easy to transport and has a good energy density, its high burning temperature of up to 1,800 °C (3,272 °F), and the fact that (unlike hydrogen, for example) it doesn’t need to be cryogenically cooled, or lose any energy during long periods of storage.
Waste water is a headache to deal with since it’s a complex soup of bacteria and other tiny elements which vary day to day. When a brewery puts its waste into the sewage system it can really mess things up for the facilities cleaning waste water since the chemical balance changes so drastically. A town in Montana decided to work with their local brewery to turn that negative impact into a positive one and it worked like a charm!
If you home-brew beer you should dump your leftovers from the brewing process on your garden. It’s great for the plants and, trust me, it works.
Because it’s rich in yeast, hops and sugar, brewery waste can throw off the microbes that wastewater treatment plants rely on to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. The two nutrients can cause algae blooms in rivers and kill off fish.
“But if we can use [brewery waste] correctly and put it in the right spot, it’s very beneficial to the process,” engineering consultant Coralynn Revis says.
Revis led a pilot project here last summer to try to do just that. Bozeman worked with a local brewery to feed its beer waste to the treatment plant’s bacteria at just the right time in just the right dosage.
“This is super-simplified, but like, if they’re eating their french fries, they need a little ketchup with it. So to get the nitrate out, you dose a little carbon, and the bugs are happier,” Revis explained.
Here at Things Are Good we tend to like beer and we’re always happy to see the brewing process become more environmentally friendly. A smart inventor in the USA has found a way to convert a naturally occurring element of the brewing process and converts it into natural gas!
The brewery is Magic Hat and their motto is “Saving the earth, one beer at a time” – I can’t wait to try their beer.
The MIT-trained mechanical engineer has invented a patented device that turns brewery waste into natural gas that’s used to fuel the brewing process.
The anaerobic methane digester, installed last year at Magic Hat Brewing Co. in Vermont, extracts energy from the spent hops, barley and yeast left over from the brewing process — and it processes the plant’s wastewater. That saves the brewer on waste disposal and natural gas purchasing
The 42-foot tall structure, which cost about $4 million to build, sits in the back parking lot of Magic Hat’s brewery, where it came online last summer.
Fitch, 37, is CEO of PurposeEnergy, Inc., of Waltham, Mass., a renewable energy startup company whose lone product is the biphase orbicular bioreactor, which is 50 feet in diameter, holds 490,000 gallons of slurry and produces 200 cubic feet of biogas per minute.
Brewers big and small have wrestled with waste issues since the dawn of beer-making. In recent years, they’ve turned to recycling — both as a cost-saver and for environmental reasons.
Beer is good and here at Things Are Good we do drink a lot of it. We also know that beer can be pretty intensive in water consumption and other resoruces, so I’m happy to share the news of eco-friendly brewers.
Located in Fort Collins, CO, right up the road from me, New Belgium may just be the pinnacle of eco-friendly beer brewing. In 1999, New Belgium became the largest private consumer of wind-powered electricity, and is an employee-owned business that prides itself on its environmental stewardship, adhering to the following creeds:
1. Lovingly care for the planet that sustains us.
2. Honor natural resources by closing the loops between waste and input.
3. Minimize the environmental impact of shipping our beer.
4. Reduce our dependence on coal-fired electricity.
5. Protect our precious Rocky Mountain water resources.
6. Focus our efforts on conservation and efficiency.
7. Support innovative technology.
8. Model joyful environmentalism through our commitment to relationships, continuous improvement, and the camaraderie and cheer of beer
They take full advantage of the more than 360 days of sunshine in Fort Collins by using UV blocking windows, sun-tubes, and light shelves; they use evaporative coolers, which condition their 55,000 square foot packaging hall with no compressors; and at their public events like their philanthropic bike festival, Tour de Fat, New Belgium celebrates bicycling as a viable form of alternative transport while a solar-powered stage provides sound for the day
Many breweries have stepped up their efforts to limit the negative environmental effects of brewing beer. Steam Whistle Pilsner has earned praise from many an environmentalist for their progressive steps toward becoming a green brewery.
The Toronto-based brewery gets its electricity from Bullfrog Power, which uses wind and low-impact hydroelectric sources. Its cooling is by Enwave, which uses cold water from deep in Lake Ontario, and new brewing equipment that captures steam cuts their wastewater by a third. Its trucks run on biofuels and, thanks to improved route planning, they cut the amount of fuel they used last year by more than 7,000 litres – while increasing sales.
Of course, Steam Whistle isn’t the only brewery improving their environmental standards: Brasserie McAuslan in Montreal and Molson Coors have both reduced their water use in recent years.