Brewing up water circularity

Brewing beer is a notoriously water-intensive process: some breweries use seven litres of water for every litre of beer produced, and up to 70% of that water becomes wastewater. In 2015, the Carlsberg Group consumed an average of 3.4 litres of water for every litre of beer produced at its global network of manufacturing sites. The status quo was a far cry from a true circular water economy.

Several years ago, the company committed to significantly reduce its water consumption at its site in Fredericia, Denmark. The strategy was to connect processes at the wastewater plant, water recovery plant and in production to not only reuse water but use as little as possible in the brewing process.

Along with Belgian circular water specialists Pantarein Water and Dutch water treatment system designer Lenntech, Carlsberg partnered with DuPont to implement a state-of-the-art Total Water Management (TWM) treatment plant at Fredericia brewery. The ground-breaking water initiative made use of DuPont closed circuit reverse osmosis technology to purify wastewater.

All together, these technologies enabled the facility to reduce water consumption by 58.8%, cutting the water needed to brew a litre of beer from 3.4 litres to 1.3 litres. Of the process water used for sanitation and bottle cleaning, the brewery now treats 82% to 90% and reuses it for the same purposes, with the remaining water sent to a public wastewater treatment plant. The transformation has created both environmental and economic savings: annually, the Fredericia brewery water consumption decreased by 500,000 m3, leading to that much less water purchased and discharged.

The project saves not only water but energy as well. Because the TWM produces biogas as a by-product, the brewery uses it to heat on-site facilities, accounting for 15% of the total amount of heat used.

Carlsberg isn’t the only one to acknowledge its successful partnership with DuPont. In 2022, the project was recognised as Industrial Project of the Year in the GWI Global Water Awards. Today, the Fredericia facility may well be the world’s most water-efficient brewery.

‘As a result of this project,’ said Andreas Kirketerp, manager of the TWM facility at Carlsberg’s Fredericia brewery, ‘Carlsberg has not only exceeded its environmental target for the brewery, it has also saved money by dramatically reducing the amount of water used and created a blueprint for the rest of the business.’

The success at the Fredericia brewery raises the bar – and the possibilities – for industrial facilities across Europe. If the beer industry can achieve a circular economy for water management, there’s no reason these technologies cannot be applied to help other sectors do the same.

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cubic meters decrease in annual brewery water consumption

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