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This craft brewery is using carbon capture to reuse CO2 in its brews

Brewing beer both produces and requires CO2. So, a central Alberta company is taking what seems like the logical next step by becoming the first small brewery in Canada to use carbon capture technology and recycle those emissions.

Blindman Brewing will be using carbon dioxide from the fermentation process to carbonate its beer

Kirk Zembal of Blindman Brewing. The brewery is installing a device that will capture CO2 during the fermentation process, and scrub it so it can be used for carbonating or canning beer. (Emilio Avalos/CBC)

A central Alberta business is taking a unique approach to carbon capture by serving up some of its emissions in beer. 

Breweries produce carbon dioxide during the fermentation process and they use CO2 to carbonate beer.

So, a central Alberta company is taking what seems like the logical next step by becoming the first small brewery in Canada to use carbon capture technology and recycle those emissions.

Blindman Brewing, based in Lacombe, spends about $60,000 a year buying CO2 canisters to give their beers the perfect, refreshing texture. 

But during fermentation, yeast devours sugars, producing alcohol and CO2 as the byproducts. 

Now, the brewery will be capturing that CO2, scrubbing it and compressing it to carbonate their beers and run canning lines — reducing their emissions, and need for purchased CO2 to near zero. 

Blindman Brewing plans to use carbon-captured CO2 in its brewing and canning. (Radio-Canada)

Kirk Zembal, the brewery's cofounder, said he spent five years researching the right equipment, which was purchased with the help of a grant through Emissions Reduction Alberta.

"When you have these ideas that are simple, that reduce emissions and that are financially viable, well, those are Win-win wins," he said. 

"We're probably going to capture about 100 metric tons of CO2 … there's 1,100 other craft breweries in Canada, 7,000 or 8,000 in the States, and tens of thousands more around the world. If we can all adopt equipment like this, well now we're making a big impact."

The carbon capture process is expected to keep about 100 metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year. (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

Zembal said the investment is expected to pay for itself in two to three years.

The device, which is about the size of a refrigerator, is designed for small breweries by Texas-based Earthly Labs. It cost $200,000, half of which was covered by ERA. 

The brewery is partnering with Olds College to develop a dataset on emissions reductions and profitability, so its experience can be shared with other breweries across the country interested in the environmentally friendly process.

"I think it's baked into the ethos of craft beer to do better and, you know, we really all need to reduce our carbon emissions," Zembal said.

The carbon capture program, which will be installed this summer, is just one of the brewery's steps toward going green, alongside installing a solar array to recycling its plastic can holders.

Corrections

  • The original version of the story stated that Blindman Brewing was the first Canadian company to use carbon dioxide from the fermentation process to carbonate its beer. Major brewing companies already do this, but Blindman is the first small brewer in Canada to do so.
    Jul 06, 2021 12:53 PM MT

With files from Tiphanie Roquette

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