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Beverage Makers Turning Production Waste Into Biomass, Carbonation

The Arandas, Mexico-based Tequila Cazadores distillery has become a shining example of Bacardi’s “Good Spirited” corporate responsibility program. The facility is now 100 percent biomass-fueled thanks to a recently-installed biomass boiler, and about 60 percent of its biofuel comes from spent agave fibers from the distillation process.

The spiky blue-leaved agave plants used to make the tequila grow in orderly lines in the picturesque Highlands of Jalisco, outside the distillery. The agave sugar extraction process, cooking and distillation of the brand's tequila requires steam power, generated by the boiler. The majority of this energy is now provided by the fibers leftover from that process, while the remaining 40 percent is made up of other organic materials – about half of which used to be considered waste – such as clean waste wood, biomass briquettes, sawdust, coconut shell, and tree cuttings. The company claims that it is exclusively using carbon-neutral, renewable fuel sources. The ashes from the boiler are being used for composting as a nutrient-rich soil supplement.

The massive biomass boiler, which will use about 19,000 tons of biofuel a year, replaced two fossil fuel-dependent boilers that used 2,000 tons of heavy fuel oil each year. The company estimates that the “clean-burning” biomass boiler has reduced the facility’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 80 percent. The conversion also reduced noise pollution by about 20 percent.

The Arandas tequila distillery, which was established in 1973 and employs more than 100 people, now boasts the largest biomass boiler among all of the Bacardi facilities worldwide. The project took 18 months to plan and 10 months to execute, but has been running smoothly for over one year.

“Our Good Spirited initiative is part of our legacy, vital to our growth and sustainability, and this biomass boiler changeover in Mexico, one of many to come, represents our steadfast commitment to our customers and consumers to make the best quality spirits in the most responsible ways,” said Eduardo Vallado, vice president of supply chain and manufacturing for Bacardi in the Americas.

“Tequila Cazadores strives to be the most sustainable tequila in the world and the Arandas biomass boiler is leading the way. The tequila distillery's measurable economic and environmental achievements make it an exceptional example of the Bacardi environmental stewardship mission.”

Vallado cited the potential effects of global climate change as “realities” that continue to motivate Bacardi’s environmental initiatives. Several distilleries under the Bacardi umbrella in Scotland, for example, have installed biomass plants: Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery cut its carbon footprint by 90 percent and its Rothes CoRDe facility powers itself and 8,000 homes. Bacardi is also working with global non-profit Bonsucro to sustainably source 100 percent of its sugarcane by 2022.

Meanwhile, a new system from CO2 Solutions and Mojonnier Limited will capture carbon from the beverage bottling process and supplies the carbon dioxide back to the beverage industry for its carbonation needs.

The companies announced their alliance earlier this week; CO2 Solutions develops enzyme-enabled carbon capture technology and Mojonnier has been a supplier of carbonated soft drink, beer and dairy equipment and services since its founding in 1919. The partnership builds on CO2 Solutions’ existing collaboration agreement with GasTran Systems (“GTS”), which licensed its rotating packed bed (RPB) mass transfer technology to Mojonnier in January 2016.

“Together we can truly offer the beverage industry a breakthrough approach to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of their operations, and secure their supply of beverage quality CO2,” CO2 Solutions President and CEO Evan Price said.

Bottlers of carbonated beverages typically have sterilization operations that utilize boiler-generated steam. While these boilers emit CO2 into the atmosphere, bottlers have to purchase CO2 for their beverages from commercial sources at “substantial cost,” according to CO2 Solutions and Mojonnier. Their new closed-loop solution integrates Mojonnier’s RPB technology with CO2 Solutions’ carbon capture process to allow the reuse of the boiler-emitted CO2 – thus preventing the emissions from entering the atmosphere – and providing a reliable, low cost source of beverage-grade CO2.

CO2 Solutions’ Valleyfield, Quebec demonstration project, which ran successfully for 2,500 hours in 2015, yielded beverage-grade CO2 capture results. Tests by CO2 Solutions of the GasTran/Mojonnier RPB technology this past fall confirmed the potential for substantial reductions in equipment size. Consequently, both companies anticipate reducing the net carbon capture costs even further from the already low-cost packed tower solution developed by CO2 Solutions. A scaled-up version of the new joint RPB solution will be tested at a third-party test facility in North Dakota over the coming summer.