Love your ales, pilsners, weissbeers and stouts, but worried about all that fermented grain waste?
Thanks to German researcher Wolfgang Bengel, brew lovers can help create cleaner energy every time they down a pint.
Bengel, the technical director at German biomass company BMP Biomasse Projekt, has developed steam boilers that safely burn the spent grain left over from brewing beer. In the process, Bengel and his partners created a system for effective anaerobic (oxygen-free) treatment of waste water from breweries as well.
The combined systems offer breweries a comprehensive way to reduce their environmental footprints, as well as cut operating costs: recycling their brewing waste into a biofuel source; slashing the amount of grain waste trucked out of their facilities; and ultimately using less energy overall.
"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," says Bengel in a statement.
Bengel based his beer waste burning process on work he has done in the past to produce energy in China and Thailand. There, he successfully treated the residue from rice and sugar cane in boilers with atmospheric fluidized bed combustion systems, which involve burning fuel particles suspended in an air stream.
To create this beer-backed biofuel, first water is removed from the grain waste. Then it is dried to become fuel for the boilers.
Much of the effort in perfecting the system went into developing the cleaning and filtering system that brings the combustion process up to Germany's high environmental standard. The project involved several companies: BMP; fellow German firms Innovas, a biogas plant specialist, and engineering firm Bisanz; and a Slovakian industrial machinery firm, Adato.
"By chance, Bisanz had been working on a boiler plant for a waste management company which entered bankruptcy, with assets being sold," according to ScienceDaily. "The partners decided to buy the unwanted plant and to adapt the equipment to the process of burning spent grain."
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