By the end of 2009, Anheuser-Busch expects to make one of seven of its beers using renewable fuel.
The company’s brewery in Fairfield, Calif. is constructing a Bio-Energy Recovery System (BERS), which will be up and running by the end of this year.
The technology will allow the brewery to turn brewing byproducts into biogas to help power the plant, which produces Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch, Busch Light and Natural Light beers.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity out here in Fairfield,” said plant manager Kevin Finger. “[BERS] reduces our natural gas use by about 15 percent per year… It will also offset our greenhouse gas emissions.”
BERS works by taking the brewing wastewater, made up mostly of water and alcohol, and streaming it to a tank where bacteria consume the nutrients. The bacteria produce methane gas, which is compressed and sent back to the boilers where it is combined with conventional natural gas.
The $10 million project involves the construction of three large tanks and supporting structures. When it is complete, Fairfield will be the 10th of Anheuser-Busch’s 12 U.S. breweries to install BERS. The first system was built in 1985.
Also under construction is a solar power plant that Anheuser-Busch has teamed up with SunEdison to host on the Fairfield property. Between 6,400 and 6,500 solar panels will be spread over approximately 7.5 acres, and the solar energy is expected to account for 3 percent of the electricity used by the brewery.
Both the BERS and the solar energy panels will be located behind the Anheuser-Busch plant resting beside Highway 80, and will be barely visible to drivers.
“The only way to really see the structures will be to come onto the property,” Finger said.
Anheuser-Busch isn’t the only brewer to incorporate sustainability into its business practices, however.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, which operates a brewery in Chico, has an extensive sustainability program that includes similar measures.
The brewery generates 1.8 megawatts of electricity from solar panels, and another 1.2 megawatts from fuel cells powered by biogas, said Sierra Nevada sustainability coordinator Cheri Chastain.
This generates 80 to 85 percent of the plant’s energy needs, on average, but frequently generates more than 100 percent of the plant’s needs, putting electricity back on the grid for other consumers, Chastain said.
Other breweries – like Half Moon Bay Brewing Company in Half Moon Bay, Calif. – employ more traditional methods. The brewery gives all its spent grain, as much as 10,000 pounds per week, to a local hog farmer who uses it as feed, said marketing director Wayne Meyer.
Meyer said the company also gets some of its beer ingredients, such as pumpkins for pumpkin ale, from local sources.
Another Anheuser-Busch factory in Houston is currently working on a project to use gases released by a nearby landfill to help power the plant.
“Houston already has a Bio-Energy Recovery System, and on top of that they’re going to use this gas, which will put them at using over 70 percent renewable fuel,” said spokesperson Ellen Bogard.
With the Houston brewery’s landfill project and Fairfield’s BERS, Anheuser-Busch is projecting that by the end of 2009, 15 percent of the energy used by its American breweries will be powered by renewable fuel.
Anheuser-Bush holds a 48.5 percent share of U.S. beer sales.
ALI EDNEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. JEREMY OGUL contributed.