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Unlikely way expired beer is being used

It might bring a tear to your eye to think about the millions of litres of beer that went off as pubs were closed by lockdown restrictions but it has been put to good use.The beer from South Australian breweries was originally bound for pubs and restaurants, but instead it’s been repurposed on site and…

It might bring a tear to your eye to think about the millions of litres of beer that went off as pubs were closed by lockdown restrictions but it has been put to good use.

The beer from South Australian breweries was originally bound for pubs and restaurants, but instead it’s been repurposed on site and used to power a water treatment plant in Adelaide’s west.

Ales and lagers are “liquid gold” for anaerobic digesters used in wastewater treatment according to SA Water senior manager production and treatment Lisa Hannant.

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“Our Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant has always been a strong performer in generating its own energy from biogas and the addition of ales and lagers took it to new heights amid the shutdown,” she said.

“Beer’s high calorific load and methane potential means it’s perfect for co-digestion and by adding around 150,000 litres of expired beer per week, we generated a record 355,200 cubic metres of biogas in May and another 320,000 cubic metres in June, which is enough to power 1200 houses.”

Previously the beers were sitting in kegs waiting to expire, forcing brewers to essentially pour it down the drain.

“As a packaging brewer you never want to be taking beer out of kegs, it’s never a good thing,” Pirate Life head of brewing Lewis Maschmedt told 10 News Adelaide.

“Many businesses have been impacted by the restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 and this is just one example of how industry has remained resilient and adapted to ensure their resources aren’t wasted, while enabling an outcome for the environment,” Ms Hannant said.

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Before the expired beer was introduced, the digesters typically produced enough biogas to power 80 per cent of the treatment facility’s needs.

The beers boosted the renewable energy generation of the facility to 654MWh in a single month.

“Honourably, our thirsty digesters have been doing their bit for the environment by drinking themselves silly and with such a horrific diet it’s no wonder they produce so much gas,” Ms Hannant said.

The digesters use “high strength organic waste” from industrial applications and mix it with sewage sludge, which is then heated in an oxygen-less concrete tank.

Natural bacterial metabolic processes then break down the sludge, producing biogas.

“Harnessing the power of biogas through our on-site gas engines creates renewable energy for the treatment plant and a sustainable alternative for industrial waste that’s otherwise difficult to dispose of and treat,” Ms Hannant said.

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