MillerCoors Brews Up Sustainable Savings

Sept. 9, 2011
From water usage and packaging to brewery waste and energy consumption, Chicago-based MillerCoors, a joint venture of SABMiller plc and Molson Coors Brewing Co., is always looks for ways to reduce its impact on the environment.

MillerCoors, the second largest beer company in America, operates eight breweries in the U.S., as well as the Leinenkugel’s craft brewery in Chippewa Falls, Wisc., and two microbreweries, the 10th Street Brewery in Milwaukee and the Blue Moon Brewing Co. in Denver.

Striving to make more beer while using less water, reusing or recycling nearly 100 percent of brewery waste, it relies on each of its U.S. breweries to seek out the most efficient and environmentally sustainable brewing practices. One of its success stories occurred at the company’s Irwindale, Calif., brewery.

Opened in 1980, the Irwindale brewery employs nearly 600 people, who produce seven million barrels of beer annually, and the challenge was to implement a clean, renewable source of energy for the plant, while simultaneously minimizing emissions and curtailing the cost associated with disposal of waste byproduct from the beer manufacturing process.

MillerCoors engaged EPS Corp., a Costa Mesa, Calif. company specializing in energy management solutions for industrial manufacturers, to analyze the situation and propose a solution. EPS Corp performed a plant-wide energy usage analysis to determine the best possible use for the biogas generated through the treatment of the wastewater treatment process. EPS determined that the best opportunity for savings and emissions reductions was to build a biogas fired cogeneration plant using the biogas from an anaerobic digester. The cogeneration plant would generate electricity for the beer making process and hot water to heat the anaerobic digester, reports

MillerCoors moved forward on the $1.5 million project, and EPS performed the engineering, design, procurement and construction for installation of the generator and electrical interconnection for a 1 MW biogas-powered cogeneration plant. 

Biogas was recovered from beer waste by utilizing an anaerobic digester. The biogas was used to fuel the cogeneration plant, which produces electricity to power the facility. The thermal energy produced by the cogeneration plant is used to heat the digester and to offset high-quality steam/hot water for use in various beer manufacturing processes.

The biogas-powered cogeneration plant provides the brewery with 1 MW of power each hour, saving MillerCoors the cost of purchasing that power from its electric utility and reducing the brewery’s carbon footprint. Excess gas available at the facility is used for additional power generation capacity. In addition, it helps the brewery reduce waste by using recycled by-products as fuel.

MillerCoors received a $1 million rebate from the California Public Utilities Commission Self-Generation Incentive Program, one of the largest rebates ever awarded on a project of this kind in the state of California, boosting the simple payback on the project to six months. The net project cost was $474,040, and annual savings amount to $936,178.

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