3 July 2018
Fit for the Future members, Adnams, have introduced new technology into their brewery and distillery to reduce both water and energy consumption. This is a huge chapter in their sustainability story – the distillery water consumption should reduce by about half and energy (and carbon emissions) will reduce by around 15%.
We caught up with Adnam’s sustainability dream team, Richard Carter and Ben Orchard, to find out how they’ve achieved this.
Southwold, where the brewery and distillery are based, is on the east coast of Suffolk which is one of the driest parts of the UK. Annual rainfall is equivalent to that in Jerusalem! As a result, we’re extremely mindful of our water consumption and our impact on the region. This is why we aim to improve our water efficiency ratios every year.
We’ve identified two high temperature waste water streams from our distillery, which are in fact a very valuable resource. A lot of heat is needed in one of the very first stages of brewing beer- so could the waste heat be captured and reused? The answer is yes. We’ve installed a heat exchanger to pass it into the brewery, which is just next door to our distillery. This process can continue indefinitely with very little additional fresh water required, thus dramatically reducing our water consumption.
Although this sounds simple and obvious, it’s a combination of two technologies: closed loop water use and heat recovery. It has required us to frame how we view operations differently: sometimes you can’t just look to find solutions to problems - with this project we weren’t fixing a problem. You need to think about your processes and what value they hold. In other words, don’t see wastes, see resources.
We came up with the idea after a Fit for the Future visit to see National Trust’s Keith and Paul in North Wales. The aim was to talk about electric vehicle and micro-hydro, but we were also shown their marine-source heat pump at Plas Newydd, which uses water from the Menai Strait to heat a mansion house. This got us thinking, and during the six hour drive home we identified that we had a source of (previously waste) heat on site but not an obvious use for it.
Our initial results are showing reductions of 90% for the fresh water required in the distillery. This equates to around a 40% reduction in overall spirit water consumption. We are still calculating some of the heat reduction results, but initial estimates are in line with the proposed savings of 15%, helping reduce costs and carbon emissions.
As with all Adnam’s sustainable business projects, there’s a very clear environmental and financial business case too, which goes a long way towards offsetting other cost pressures and keeping products at an affordable price. This is also a direct application of our thoughts on environmental gearing. By making better use of our fixed environmental impacts, we are reducing our per-product footprint considerably.
Perhaps more excitingly, and a perfect illustration of why water management is so critical to our business, is the launch of our newest product: Ghost Ship Alcohol Free. Removal of the alcohol molecules is a relatively water intensive process but we’ve done it to keep a close replica of the original flavour. Had we not reduced our distillery consumption, we wouldn’t have had sufficient capacity to manufacturer the alcohol-free version.
Yet again, we have a very clear example of water efficiency generating real resilience for our business: it’s helping us reduce energy, reduce effluent and reduce consumption. This is critical in our rapidly changing industry that’s responding to very real changes in both the climate and consumer behaviour.