Thursday, February 17, 2011

Natural Gas Produced From Brewing Waste Turned Into Renewable Fuel For Future Batches

Eric Fitch, CE of Purpose Energy, Inc., has created what he calls the Biphase Orbicular Biodigester System, which is capable of supplying breweries with renewable bioenergy. The goal is to either reduce the reliance upon other forms of energy (and thus, the cost), or eliminate them completely. At the same time, waste disposal costs are offset as well. Their motto? "You Produce Organic Waste. We Collect It. We Refine It. You Reuse It." But how does this work, exactly?

Well, the main ingredient breweries are left with after a successful batch has been brewed is, of course, the discarded grain. A simple solution, and one to which many breweries turn, is giving away the spent grain as animal feed to nearby farms (for homebrewers, see the link at the top of the page for cookie and dog treat recipes); breweries such as Harpoon, SweetWater, and Sierra Nevada, for instance, are not alone in this. What the Biodigester Systems does, however, is extracts energy (methane gas) from the spent grains onsite, and then allows the brewery to reuse the gas when brewing subsequent batches. This type of mentality should be reminiscent of breweries like New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO) that also maintain a marginal carbon footprint; New Belgium, aside from being 100% dependent upon wind energy (as mentioned in previous posts), also collects some of the heat escaping part of their brewing process to use as means of keeping their loading dock from icing over during the winter. Cool, I know.

Near the end of 2009, Fitch went into business with Magic Hat Brewing Company (South Burlington, VT) and installed a 42-foot tall Biodigester, capable of producing 200 cubic feet of gas per minute and holding 490,000 gallons of waste material, in their back parking lot. The Biodigester went live this past summer only 100 feet from the brewery. Magic Hat leases that portion of their property to Purpose Energy, Inc. for only 1 dollar per year. In exchange, Magic Hat receives below-market prices for the selling back of the energy produced from the spent grain they pay Purpose Energy, Inc. to convert for them.

This is certainly a novel invention, and a step in the right direction for the future of breweries across the globe (Fitch, of course, is looking to expand). Although one of these lean, mean, methane machines, will run about 4 million dollars, it can help save brewers up to 2 dollars per barrel, according to Fitch. Perhaps, in the near future we'll see more breweries taking Fitch up on his Biodigester and help him in his mission of "Saving The Earth. One Beer At A Time."

Peace and Love!

1 comment:

  1. We'll all just have to drink more beer to keep this worthy enterprise going. I'm doing my bit for the nation.