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Monday, July 13, 2009

German Scientist Cooks Up Idea for 'Waste-Free' Breweries

A scientist pondering the growing problem of brewery waste in Europe has devised a way to tap into the power of beer:

He and his partners designed a system to recycle spent grains and wastewater to produce energy that can fuel the beermaking process.

Spent grains apparently have been piling up in the brewing capitals of Europe. Farmers, who for centuries have used the waste as cattle feed or fertilizer, have been producing less beef and contending with increasing restrictions on the amount of waste on they can have on their land.

Hops and Irish moss.
Image CC licensed by theotherway

With the market dropping for the brewing waste, “we reached a situation in 2000 where breweries even had to pay to dispose of their spent grain," scientist Wolfgang Bengel told Eureka, Europe’s intergovernmental incubator for innovation and advanced technology. "Beer making is energy intensive -- you boil stuff, use hot water and steam and then use electric energy for cooling -- so if you recover more than 50 percent of your own energy costs from the spent grain that's a big saving."

Bengel, the technical director at German biomass company BMP Biomasse Projekt, drew on his experience in producing energy from rice and cane waste in China and Thailand.
Brewery tanks.
Image CC licensed by Maks D

He also partnered up German firms INNOVAS, which specializes in biogas plants, and BISANZ, which brought engineering know-how, and the Slovakian company Adato, whose expertise is in boilers for waste heat and cogeneration plants.

Together they set up a test plant and devised a system that enables breweries to "treat their complete waste stream," turn it into energy and do so in a way that meets European environmental standards, said Eureka.
Dark beer in the light.

The enterprise is now looking for business from breweries that want to put the process to work at their sites and from other firms, such as waste management companies, that would front the costs of buying and installing the equipment and sell the energy back to a brewery.

Recycling brewery waste for power isn’t new: Anheuser-Busch has used its Bio-Energy Recovery Systems, which it calls BERS, for years to trap nutrients from wastewater and turn it into energy. The systems are used in nine of the company’s 12 U.S breweries and at its brewery in Wuhan, China, supplying up to 15 percent of sites’ fuel needs.

Several Tall Ones — Image by OwnMoment.
Hops and Irish Moss — Image CC licensed by theotherway.
Brewery Tanks — Image CC licensed by Maks D.
Dark Beer — Image by dlillo1.