Brewery succeeds with sustainable approach
From wind power and green transportation to methane gas co-generation and fully automated brewing operations, New Belgium Brewery continues to set a high standard for reaping the benefits of sustainable engineering. See photos. Link to video.
Ft. Collins, CO New Belgium Brewery isn’t simply in the business of producing and distributing world-class beers—including the well-known Fat Tire Amber Ale. The third largest craft
New Belgium Brewery focuses on sustainability via wastewater treatment, methane gas co-generation, and optimized control systems.
brewer in the U.S. takes pride in being a responsible corporate role model with progressive programs that promote green policies and preservation of the environment.
New Belgium was one of the world’s first wind-powered breweries and has retained this commitment to wind power for more than ten years now. The company belongs to “1% For the Planet,” an international organization whose members, through donations and fund-raisers, contribute one percent of their annual revenue to environmental causes. And to encourage green-powered transportation, each New Belgium employee gets a free custom cruiser bike after 1 year of employment.
Perhaps the finest example of New Belgium’s commitment to sustainability is in its management of its water and wastewater. In 2002, the company completed installation of its own water treatment facility. Wastewater from New Belgium is transferred to this plant, where it’s put into a series of large ponds and treated with bacteria that feed on and break down any organic wastes in the water. The byproduct of this “pathogen purification” treatment process is methane gas, which collects in a large membraned, balloon-like container. This methane is then piped back into the New Belgium facility, where it’s used as fuel for a combined heat and power (CHP) engine that produces both electrical and thermal energy.
Ten to 15% of the brewery's power comes from this methane gas co-generation source, which decreases the demand on the city of Fort Collins significantly.
New Belgium employs SNAP PAC System from Opto 22 to monitor and control aerobic and anaerobic water treatment, including pH stabilization, sludge dewatering, and all auxiliary processes in its wastewater treatment facilities.
Highly automated brewery
New Belgium’s 50-acre, multi-building facility is outfitted with Opto 22-based control systems. The Opto 22 hardware handles all of the facility’s brewing processes, as well as the water process systems and virtually all other building management and facility systems. In total, more than 10,000 individual digital and analog I/O points are monitored and/or controlled.
Brewing operations control, overseen by chief electrical and automation engineer Igor Valuyev, is handled via eight zones of control. Seven of the eight, including the complex brewing processes, are controlled by Opto 22 programmable automation controllers (PACs). Among New Belgium’s seven zones are the brewhouse, filtering, and malting—where the PACs control oven temperatures as the grains are dried and roasted, as well as various machines that crush malt, break apart grain kernels, and mash ingredients used in the various brewing recipes. The PACs also monitor and regulate the temperature of water before it’s added to the brew, and the temperature of the brew itself as it “rests” and the various enzymes begin to activate. “A rest is basically a waiting period, during which starches in the grains are converted to sugars so fermentation can occur,” says Valuyev.
The Opto hardware expertly handles all other processes relating to the brewing—such as boiling, blending, temperature and pressure regulation, and highly complex cascading proportional integral derivative (PID) control loops, where the output of one PID loop calculation is used as a process variable input for calculations in a second PID loop.
Click here to see a video featuring Control Engineering editorial director David Greenfield interviewing New Belgium’s chief electrical and automation engineer Igor Valuyev about the brewery’s wastewater treatment and co-generation operations, cascading PID loops, control system development, and use of wireless throughout the Fort Collins facilities.
New Belgium’s automation team created all the unique control strategies in use at the brewery. For this size brewery, New Belgium has a very high level of automation, and the team has worked very hard to make the company unique by using their expertise to take control of processes and
A topside view of the mash tuns at New Belgium Brewing. Click on the image to see an Opto 22 video about New Belgium's automated brewing strategies.
maximize the functionality of the facility’s control systems. For example, the automation team carefully monitors and controls boiling temperatures in kettles as hops are added. This is a critical process that must take place within strict parameters, as the boiling process not only terminates enzymatic processes but also helps sterilize the brew. “We have many different malt recipes,” Valuyev notes. “To ensure that each comes out perfect, the Opto systems must perform to very specific operational standards. Mashers, mixers, milling systems, chilling systems, filtration systems, and our other equipment must all be made to work together.” The Opto 22 hardware controls and continuously polls these machines to ensure that all processes are running properly, while production workers manage these processes using human–machine interface (HMI) screens created with the Opto 22 software by Valuyev.
To view the full Opto 22 video covering New Belgium’s automated brewing strategies and practices, click here .