Heineken NV, the third largest brewer in the world with over 165 breweries and 250 brands in its portfolio announced that it has created the world’s first large scale zero-carbon brewery.
Gösser Brewery, located in the picturesque alpine town of Göss in Central Austria, two and half miles by road south of Vienna is the model brewery in Heineken’s sustainability effort to reduce 40% of its carbon footprint (CO2) by 2020.
The brewery, which has been around since 1860, was purchased by Heineken Group in 2003. Gösser produces 1.4 million bottles of beer a day and has 70% market share in Austria. It also sells to its neighbours in Germany, Italy and Russia.
Heineken says the brewery has been retroffited to run on 100% renewable and reusable energy sources, including solar (sun), hydropower (water), biogas (sawmill waste) and waste heat (fermentation waste). As a result, Gösser Brewery has reduced its carbon dioxide emission from 3,000 tonnes a year to zero.
For starts, the company, with the help of its parent company, Heineken, built a football pitch-sized site of solar thermal panels, which supplies around 3% of the brewer’s heating needs. Next, the brewer gets 35% of its heating requirements from a biomass district heating system, which Heineken invested in with cooperation from a local timber sawmill, Mayr-Melnhof. Gösser buys the waste wood chipping and sawdust from the sawmill, which is burned to create energy.
Another 10% comes from a wastewater treatment plant at the brewery.
But the big star is an onsite spent-grain fermentation tank that produces biogas that meets the remaining 50% of the brewer’s energy needs. Most of the waste from the beer-brewing process is spent-grain. Until May of this year, the spent-grain was sold to local farms for cattle feed, a common practice in the brewery industry. But now, the fermentation process generates enough methane from the 18,000 tonnes of spent-grain and filter residues to heat the brewery’s boilers.
Heineken says that steam is also generated from the process to clean returned and reused bottles. In Austria, 90% of the standard beer bottles are returned and reused. Whatever waste is left from the spent grain is used as fertilizer in barley fields – the grains from which then are used again in the brewery as a main ingredient.
According to Heineken, Gösser’s brew Master, Andreas Werner gets as much credit for what has become the world’s first brewery powered entirely by renewable energy. For 13 years. Mr. Werner plugged away, looking for ways to run the Gösser brewery more efficiently, working out all the complexities to achieve 100% green energy.
Heineken notes that lessons learned from the Gösser Brewery are already being used across the company and added that the company has made it a goal to become carbon neutral. The company also hopes it can help the wider brewing industry.
Gösser Brewery won the EU Sustainable Energy Award and Citizen’s Choice Award for its efforts in going 100% green.