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Alberta microbrewery will recycle its CO2

Seeing how the brewery works, it makes you wonder why no one had thought of it earlier.

Along each vat where Blindman Brewing beer is brewed, a long pipe bubbles in a bucket of water. It is carbon dioxide that naturally escapes from the beer fermentation process.

The microbrewery estimates that it releases up to 100 tonnes of CO2 per year into the atmosphere, equivalent to the energy consumption of 12 homes.

A hose bubbles in a bucket of water.

Yeast in the beer fermentation process produces carbon dioxide.

Photo : Radio-Canada / Emilio Avalos

The irony is that a few meters from these vats large metal tanks inject carbon dioxide into the fermented beer. The company has to buy around $ 60,000 worth of CO2 per year to carbonate its drink.

Why not close the circuit and use the gas emitted during fermentation to put the beer in a can? It is all the simplicity of the system that the Blindman Brewing microbrewery wishes to set up.

We believe we can be self-sufficient in CO2, explains one of the co-founders, Kirk Zembal.

A simple idea, but expensive

It’s more complicated than it sounds , he adds, however.

When he started shopping for such technology five years ago, Mr. Zembal went to see what big breweries like Labatt were using. The multi-million dollar quotes took his breath away, and the system square footage almost matched the size of the hangar that houses the microbrewery.

Kirk Zembal in the middle of the huge vats of beer.

Brewery co-founder Kirk Zembal has been working on setting up a CO2 capture system for the past five years.

Photo : Radio-Canada / Emilio Avalos

Blindman Brewing finally found a microbrewery-scale system designed by Texas-based company Earthly Labs.

The assembly of metal pipes and cabinets captures CO2 from fermentation tanks, cleans impurities and tanks it for use in beer gasification and tank cleaning.

The invoice: $ 200,000.

It’s expensive. For us, $ 200,000 is not the same budget as for Budweiser says Edmonton brewery sales manager Nathan Kohlert.

Nathan Kohlert checks a barrel containing beer.

According to Nathan Kohlert, one of the values ​​of the brewery is its concern for community issues such as the environment.

Photo : Radio-Canada / Emilio Avalos

After many administrative procedures, the company obtained a grant from the provincial agency Emissions Reduction Alberta, which will cover half of the costs. The material will arrive at the end of the summer.

No longer having to buy carbon dioxide reserves, the microbrewery expects to pay for itself within two to three years.

Recognize its impact on the environment

Beyond savings, Earthly Labs wants to be a pioneer in environmental matters. Between its consumption of water and electricity, and transport, brewing beer is not an environmentally friendly activity, notes Nathan Kohlert.

We recognize our impact, we want to reduce what we can and lead by example.

A quote from:Nathan Kohlert, Blindman Brewing

A reduction of 100 tonnes of emissions per year is a drop in the ocean of environmental challenges, admits Kirk Zembal, however. That’s why he partnered with Olds College to independently assess the benefits of the technology.

We can send this data to other breweries. It won’t be just my word, but: ‘Here is the data to prove it’, explique Kirk Zembal.

There are 1,100 microbreweries in Canada, 7,000 to 8,000 in the United States, and tens of thousands more around the world. If we can all adopt this kind of equipment, we will have a big impact.

A quote from:Kirk Zembal, Blindman Brewing

The brewery hopes to receive the first results of its experiment by early 2022.

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