Our drinking habits and the beer market have changed a lot in recent years. Ten years ago, there were about 20 breweries operating in Sweden. Today, the number is closer to 190. In the 1970s, Systembolaget (the government owned chain of liquor stores with monopoly on alcohol sales in Sweden) offered 50 different kinds of beer. Now, thousands of beers are available. In the 1970s, few except the environmental authorities made any connection between beer production and the environment, or linked business opportunities to environmental advantage.
”Our work with environmental issues and sustainability has been a key factor to win important restaurant chain customers. Now, we are taking it one step further, aiming to make our biggest production facility entirely independent of oil”, says Fredrik Spendrup, CEO of the family owned Spendrups. The company operates a micro brewery in Visby, a brewery in Hällefors and large scale production in Grängesberg. In total, about 180 million liters of beer are produced yearly, most of it in Grängesberg.
Fuel from waste materials
To make beer, water, hops, malted barley and yeast is required. The residue of malt and grain, called spent grain, consists of a high-protein organic solid – like a barley porridge, of sorts. It is used in animal feed, but must be ensilaged to last in storage.
”We are now investing 100 million SEK to create a new facility in Grängesberg, where spent grain will be converted into useful energy. It is one of the first of its kind in the world and it makes the brewery unique in Sweden. The spent grain combustion facility will make Spendrups close to self-sustaining in bio energy and almost independent of oil – corresponding to our vision of an entirely fossil free production”, Fredrik Spendrup says.
This is how it works:
- The wet spent grain is transported to silos to be dried, converted to pellets and put in storage.
- The pellets are ground to a fine powder, then put in a dispenser feeding the combustion chamber. The boiler continously adapts the power to the real needs.
- The energy is recycled into the brewing process, making more spent grain available – an example of the circular economy concept.
In total, around 30 000 tonnes of spent grain is turned into pellets every year. The energy content can be compared to 3.5 million liters of fuel oil, and supplies half the energy need of the manufacturing plant. The other half is supplied by electricity generated from renewable sources.
”The new biofuel facility achieves an 80 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions for every liter of beverage brewed, and also saves 25 MSEK yearly. We aim to be carbon neutral in a couple of years”, Fredrik Spendrup says.
Organic beer for the World Ski Championships
One of the products from the brewery is the organic beer Spendrups 2015. It was introduced with the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships (Falun2015) in mind, the first event of its kind to receive the ISO 20121 certification based on the international standard for planning, managing and delivering sustainable events. The result was a climate neutral championship, setting an example for others to follow.
The article was published in October 2015