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A techno-economic study of process heat decarbonisation pathways for the brewing industry

Panel: 1. Processes and technologies to meet future challenges

Samuel Birch, University of Leeds, United Kingdom


As the net-zero agenda continues there is considerable pressure for all industries to decarbonise their energy use. This spans a spectrum of sectors from heavy polluters, such as the steel industry using coal and natural gas within their production, accounting for considerable CO2 emissions, to SME’s production plants with a much smaller carbon output from process heat. Within this field of decarbonisation research, industries using lower grade process heating such as food and drink sector are often overlooked, although it is vital to find carbon reduction solutions for deep decarbonisation for all industries.

The brewing industry is an interesting and unique sub-sector of food and drink which has seen considerable change in the UK over the past couple of decades. The process of producing beer predominantly uses on-site fossil fuel combustion for process heat requirements with an accompanying carbon emission output. This energy is used to heat large volumes of water and organic ingredients to produce a fermentable solution which is converted into beer. To transition from the conventional heating methods researchers have suggested various technologies. These include solar thermal, heat pumps, fuel switching and electrical heating. In most cases literature either just passes mention of these technologies or assesses one technology compared to the status quo, from a technical and economic perspective. This leaves a gap in research for a comparison of a wider range of decarbonisation pathways for the brewing industry.

From the completion of a literature review the most novel and interesting decarbonisation technologies were selected as pathways for the model in this research. These include: hydrogen as a combustion fuel with the import of blue and green hydrogen for regular delivery and storage as well as a hydrogen grid connection; onsite hydrogen production paired with solar P-V and wind technology; hydrogen production via dark fermentation from brewery waste organic matter; bio-gas production and combustion from brewery waste organic matter; and high temperature heat pumps.

The model developed for this research has aspects of a process mass and energy calculation with beer output volume as the initial input for a hypothetical brewery. This value is used to calculate the other mass input and output values and thermal energy requirements from both heat transfer principles and literature data. This is calculated for the brewhouse section of the brewery and subsequent brewery operations. The overall thermal energy requirement is applied to a chosen decarbonisation technology to assess its technical feasibility and economic demand. These results are used for comparison with the base model scenario, and other pathways.

Beyond the initial economic and technical values collected from literature and used within the model, sensitivity analysis is conducted to determine the points at which a pathway would become feasible with a particular focus on economic barriers. Conditions within the model which may change over, such as carbon tax, technology CAPEX and fuel costs time are used for different time-steps using predictions to assess their influence on the feasibility of the given pathways. The findings from this body of work will be used in further research from a socio-technical perspective with a participatory qualitative methodology.


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