In practice: AB InBev’s onsite energy drive at its largest UK brewery

AB InBev's recently-announced carbon reduction targets will see the global brewer lean on past best-practice examples to decarbonise facilities. One of the shining examples thus far has been the use of onsite technologies at the Magor brewery in Wales.

The Challenge

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) is linking science-based climate goals with a “moral” belief that it should be influencing the communities it operates in, after announcing new climate, water and supply chain goals for 2025.

The world’s largest brewer has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 against a 2017 baseline –  the equivalent of taking more than 1.5 million cars off the road every year – which acts as the headline goal of the new sustainability strategy.

As a brewer, water and carbon are critical goals for AB InBev, and a number of onsite technologies are being explored to help lower emissions and improve water stewardship.

The Solution

AB InBev’s largest UK brewery in Magor has acted as a test-bed for innovative solutions and technologies for years. The facility has utilised an innovative biogas process to turn by-products such as waste water and spent grains and yeast from the brewing process into clean energy.

A Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generator, fuelled by biogas, generates clean electricity equivalent to fuelling 3,000 hot air balloons. It is used to heat other areas of the brewery and reduce energy consumption.

A state-of-the-art CO2 Recovery Plant – part funded through an undisclosed grant from the Welsh Government in 2016 – is also located onsite which enables all CO2 from the company’s fermentation units to be recovered and set back to power the site, rather than releasing into the atmosphere.

In November 2016, AB InBev installed a state-of-the-art water recovery system which recovers water from the filtration department for use in the cooling towers. Recycling in this way means the firm no longer has to use the fresh water supply as a coolant in the production cycle.

As part of the beer-making process, some of the used water becomes impure. AB InBev invested £250,000 in a reverse osmosis water treatment process that recycles water through a pasteurising system that pushes the water through a fine membrane at high pressures.

The Benefits

The brewery’s CHP system has generated more than 7,600MWh of clean electricity in the three years it has been operating at the site. This equates to 4.5% of total energy consumption and contributes to wider energy-saving initiatives at the site.

Elsewhere, the CO2 Recovery Plant has recovered more than 22,000 tonnes of CO2. The company has invested millions of pounds at the brewery. As a result, recycling rates have reached 99.8%, CO2 emissions have been reduced per hectolitre of production by more than 23% and more than six million hectolitres of water have been saved at the brewery – including a 20% reduction in five years. For the second-year running, AB InBev was named on the Climate A List for water stewardship.

Wider Benefits

In 2013, the Magor Brewery unveiled a new storage warehouse that reduced lorry journeys by 330,000km by negating the need to transfer goods to external warehouses, saving around 289 metric tonnes of CO2 as a result.

AB InBev now sources more than half of its barley for UK-brewed Budweiser from British farms, all while adding the equivalent of 11,000 football pitches worth of barley to the UK since 2014. As for packaging, more than 98% of UK-brewed AB InBev products are packaged in recyclable bottles, cans, kegs and baskets.

To promote the concept of responsible drinking and consumption, the brewery has produced more than three million Budweiser Prohibition alcohol-free beers since October 2017.

Lloyd Manship, general manager at the Magor Brewery comments: “Our brewery runs around the clock so operating sustainably is crucial for our local community, as well as our business. We are very proud of our sustainability achievements and excited about working towards our next set of goals – our most ambitious to date.

“Thanks to the support of local partners, Governments and NGOs, as well as our wider business, we are able to use cutting-edge technology to sustainably brew our beers – from global brands like Stella Artois and Budweiser to local heroes like Boddingtons – so people can enjoy them for years to come.”

The Future

AB InBev will now strive ahead to meet its global goals. The company has already reduced water use to 3.09 hl/hl on average across 200+ breweries over the past 5 years, and will now work to cut this down to 2.8 hl/hl by 2025. According to the company, global water savings at breweries equate to almost 20 billion litres.

The company is also committed to securing 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025 as part of the RE100 initiative.

Matt Mace

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