By Kristine Galloway
CHEYENNE – People in Wyoming appreciate well-crafted beer and spirits, especially if they’re made locally.
Supporting neighbors and small businesses is part of the Wyoming way of life.
This year, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) is using grant money to support Wyoming’s locally-owned breweries and distilleries.
Brian Hall, WDEQ’s outreach manager, said, “We work hard to benefit our environment and our communities in as many ways as possible. In this case, we’re doing both by helping these Wyoming businesses get pollution prevention audits that can help them save money and be more sustainable.”
The federal Source Reduction Assistance Program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Hall explained that the grant requires WDEQ to use the grant on a national emphasis area, and WDEQ chose to focus on food and beverage manufacturing.
“Because we get such a small amount of grant money, we drill down further, and this year, we decided to focus on breweries and distilleries,” he said.
In the past, WDEQ has used the grant to provide audits for meatpacking facilities and ag production facilities.
Through the grant, WDEQ pays for 100% of the cost to send contracted engineers to audit these brewery and distillery operations and provide findings in a follow-up report that includes money and energy savings opportunities, approximate implementation costs and estimates of possible financial savings.
The grant does not cover the cost for businesses to implement any energy- or money-saving strategies the engineers might provide.
WDEQ contracted with Iconergy, a Colorado energy consulting company, to perform the audits. Iconergy engineers are set to audit as many facilities as the grant money will cover.
The company completed six audits through early April with four more to do.
Erik Jeannette, Iconergy’s director of engineering, said, “When we do the audits, we look for opportunities to save on energy, waste, water and chemicals.”
He said they begin the audit process by reaching out to the business to discuss the process, how it can benefit their operations and what sort of data Iconergy will need to perform the audit.
Jeannette explained that they use the data to determine what the business spent over the past few years and how much energy they regularly use. That gives them a baseline to build off of when examining the operations.
He said that, throughout the audits they’ve already completed, they found many of the same opportunities for savings at the facilities.
One example involves reusing the chemical brewers use to clean their lines and vessels.
“There is a process to essentially spin the chemical out of solution to then reuse it, and it’s not common that these folks are doing that,” Jeannette said.
This process then keeps brewers from paying to restock that chemical as often.
Jeannette said they also are recommending carbon dioxide capture to many of the businesses. He explained that yeast gives off carbon dioxide during fermentation, but a third-party company created a system to capture that gas and use it to carbonate the beer.
Natan Simhai, associate engineer at Iconergy, said, “It’s almost kind of a no-brainer. Rather than letting all of that CO2 go into the atmosphere, you can just capture it and use it back in the brewing process, since you have to do that anyway. From a business standpoint and an environmental standpoint, it makes sense.”
Jeannette added, “So many of these breweries think it’s way out of reach until we show them the numbers.”
He added that only about 50% of the facilities they visit are recovering the energy they expend flash cooling their beer. That energy can be used to preheat the next batch of beer and not doing so results in a lot of wasted water.
Iconergy audited the Wind River Brewing Company in 2019.
Roy DeWitt, who owns the brewery, said Hall reached out to him after he applied for an audit grant through the Wyoming Business Council.
Iconergy’s follow-up report included recommendations to complete a project to switch to LED lighting and take steps to increase the efficiency of their fan cooling motors, as well as smaller recommendations, such as replacing a nozzle on the dishwasher.
“We’ve got a lot of breweries in Wyoming that are a lot bigger than us, and they could probably capitalize on this information even more than we could,” DeWitt said.
“We’re really happy we went through the audit process and would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Simhai said he and Jeannette even learned some new tricks during the brewery audits, particularly from Roadhouse Brewing Co. in Jackson Hole. The chemical reuse process is one of those.
Jeannette said, “I think it’s been a good learning experience for everyone involved. And there are a lot of documented opportunities for savings.”
For more information about these audits, visit deq.wyoming.gov.