What do Country Boy Brewing’s Cougar Bait American Blond, Shotgun Wedding Vanilla Brown Ale, Cliff Jumper IPA and Halfway Home Pale Ale all have in common? They’re all now being produced in an environmentally friendly way with the implementation of carbon capture technology courtesy of Earthly Labs.
It was unveiled earlier this year that Country Boy Brewing had become the first Kentucky-based brewery to implement the technology at its site in a move better the brewery’s environmental impact, whilst keeping the same well-known taste of its products. All of this is made possible with CiCi, a solution that allows brewers to scrub impurities for their own carbon dioxide (CO2) waste gas.
“The three-step process first removes waters from the gas, next scrubs out acid gases and volatile organic compounds, and then converts the gas to a liquid for easy storage. Once the system is hooked up to the tanks, the entire system is automated and runs in the background, starting and stopping without the need for brewer intervention,” Amy George, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Earthly Labs told gasworld.
Proving a hugely popular solution for North American breweries, Earthly Labs’ CiCi technology is now operational in a number of facilities, with the company having installed systems in over six US states this year alone, from Florida to Alaska – and the product footprint will by no means stop there.
Through speaking to George, it became evident that perhaps the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis and the various CO2 shortages in the states could have been something to do with the spike in popularity of its CiCi products. Talking about the product and the company’s installations, she said, “Earthly Labs provides breweries an ability to capture, purify and reuse their waste CO2 which is vented from fermentation and brite tanks. This allows breweries to reduce their purchase of commercial CO2 to carbonate beer, package cans and purge tanks. As a result, this helps breweries reduce operating costs, reduce CO2 emissions vented from brewery and improve safety in the facility with less CO2 build up. Post Covid-19, many breweries around the world have seen a shortage of supply due to the energy transition or feed gas plant closures. This [the CiCi product] also gives brewers control over their own CO2 supply and reduces supply chain risk, preventing loss of revenue.”
She added, “Country Boy wanted to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce CO2 costs while avoiding CO2 shortages, so they purchased the Earthly Labs CO2 capture solution. Now the brewery uses to CO2 to power its core beers…”
Many would assume that through providing a brewer with all of those benefits and installing new technology to a site, the traditional brewing process or taste of the product may therefore differ – but that is not the case.
“In addition to reducing CO2 costs and emissions, brewers have reported a higher quality produce in the beer, employee and consumer pride in the brewery’s efforts,” George said. “In many cases, the breweries share their investment in recovered CO2, and this drives brand awareness, sales velocity and consumer loyalty. We designed a solution that does not require a brewery to change their brewing process to realise results. We manage the solution to maintain their [brewery] target pressures, while enabling us to capture the CO2. The biggest post-brewing change is the replacement of their blow-off bucket with a stainless-steel sealed vessel ‘foam trap’, allowing us to trap the CO2 coming off the blow-off arm to the tank and push that gas into our CO2 system.”
Big impact from small beginnings
When looking at the benefits Earthly Labs’ CiCi technology brings to North American breweries, it’s almost hard to believe that the company was founded to participate in the CarbonXPrize, which is supported by the Musk Foundation to fund early-stage concepts from the next generation of carbon removal innovators and to remove barriers to entry for those interested in the main competition.
And the company is also making great headways when it comes to those in the industrial gases market, having formed a strong business relationship with US cryogenic equipment manufacturer Chart Industries, which has continued to flourish throughout the years – and has most recently bagged a great investment for the company.
CO2 can only be efficiently stored under pressure of about 16 to 22 bar in well-insulated CO2 storage tanks. The liquid CO2 temperature will be around -30ºC to -20°C, depending on the actual pressure, and must be kept refrigerated. For drinks, such as beer, CO2 gas is injected at about four-six bar in the final process of making beers.
CO2 storage tanks have, therefore, been used for many years. Today, there is a vast choice for all pressure applications, whether the usage is by a small brewery or a large, multinational corporation – and here, the company has partnered up with Chart Industries.
“From inception Earthly Labs has deployed Chart Industries’ cryogenic CO2 storage tanks with every installation of CiCi. It is an integral piece of the solution, allowing customers to easily store CO2 as a liquid and reuse their recovered CO2 to carbonate, package and purge,” George said.“In addition, this year Chart Industries became a strategic investor, helping us to accelerate our technology innovation, open new markets and meet global interest in carbon capture to achieve net zero emissions goals.”
Curtis Stubbings, VP of Specialty Markets at Chart Industries, said, “Chart has been working together with Earthly Labs for several years, supplying CO2 tanks and other equipment to be packaged with their carbon capture units. We were thrilled to make an investment in Earthly Labs earlier this year to help enable their continued growth and take our partnership to another level. At the time of our investment, we also executed a commercial Memorandum of Understanding to work together in a number of ways to grow our businesses together.”
Earthly Labs has carried out another installation at The Alchemist, an award-winning brewery in the US known for its flagship double IPA Heady Topper and Focal Banger.
George added, “Earthly Labs also recently implemented the first small-scale CO2 capture solution for wineries with Trefethen Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. We have planned installations in distilling and expect to see continued growth and opportunity as industries look to achieve net zero climate goals in the next decade.”