Beer production is an energy-intensive process—it requires hot water, steam, and electric energy to cool everything down. At the same time, spent grains from breweries have been piling up as farmers who traditionally used the grains for animal feed produce less beef and contend with waste restrictions on their land. The solution? Using spent grains and wastewater to generate energy for brewing.
German biomass company BMP Biomass Projekt has teamed up with German firms INNOVAS, BISANZ, and Adato, a Slovakian company, to produce energy from spent wet grain in a process that could save breweries money and reduce the need to transport grain to farms. The process reportedly meets European environmental standards, producing less than 2,000 tons of wet ashes from 100,000 tons of spent grain.
Recycling grains into energy isn't a new idea. Anheuser-Busch has been doing it for years in nine of its 12 U.S. plants (and one in China) with its Bio-Energy Recovery Systems, which turns nutrients from wastewater into biogas. But while Anheuser-Busch has only used the technology internally, BMP and co. want to commercialize their process. The team has already set up a test plant, and is now searching for business from environmentally savvy breweries. No word yet on the potential costs of the system or the percentage of energy it could provide to a brewery.