Food Engineering

Trap and condensate optimization saves water and energy for West Coast brewery

August 12, 2010
Brewer cuts water usage by 5 million gallons and saves 305,000 therms annually.


From left to right: Steve Beatty, Spirax Sarco; Jeff Jolly, MillerCoors; Rick Gavlin, Spirax Sarco; and Andrew Keeley, MillerCoors’ worked together to save water and energy at MillerCoors Irwindale, CA brewery. Source: Spirax Sarco.
As the MillerCoors 2009 “Sustainability Development Report” states, the Irwindale, CA MillerCoors brewery is doing its part to ensure its resources are sustainable long into the future by driving reductions in the amount of water it uses, the amount of energy it consumes and the amount of waste it generates. MillerCoors produces more than 70 million barrels of beer annually. The Irwindale brewery has the capacity to produce 7 million of those barrels; it produces and distributes cans, bottles and kegs of beer to multiple states as well as export markets.

In the beer-making process, the brewery uses steam-to-water, plate and frame heat exchangers to heat water. A condensate recovery system collects condensate from the exchangers and sends it to a pressurized receiver on the floor below, where it is emptied by four pressure-powered pumps. Prior to this effort, the brewery had 155 steam traps, about a third of which were orifice devices and working steam flow meters.

Miller Coors’ Irwindale brewery worked with Spirax Sarco, Inc. to perform a detailed review of its systems to identify opportunities to improve the water and energy usage efficiency.

Spirax Sarco provided recommendations for improving condensate recovery by 70 to 85 percent, thereby reducing make-up water consumption. The supplier collaborated with representatives of Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), which provided guidance for business incentive qualifications applied to conservation initiatives. While staying within MillerCoors’ budget, the team was committed to ensuring the supplier met MillerCoors’ expectations at each step of the project as well as the goal of saving water.

Spirax Sarco and SoCalGas representatives performed a steam trap system survey and a condensate return system assessment. The trap survey uncovered condensate losses due to incorrect applications of orifice-style steam traps, in addition to traps that had failed opened. The condensate return system assessment revealed the pressurized receiver was designed for electric pumps, while the system was using non-electric pressure powered pumps. Consequently, condensate removal was not optimal, resulting in flooding and maintenance problems with the relatively new heat exchangers. Also suspected was dumping of condensate to attain required temperature, which exacerbated the water consumption problems.

One aspect of the supplier’s proposed optimization strategy centered on obtaining energy savings by repairing failed-open traps. This strategy qualified for SoCalGas rebates, which helped to fund a portion of the project. Also helpful was the supplier team’s economic modeling. It demonstrated total water savings that became available by eliminating orifice and other traps that often plug and fail closed. The supplier’s team proposed the installation of 61 universal traps to replace 45 orifice traps and 16 failed traps to improve condensate recovery.

Another aspect of the strategy was the team’s recommendation that MillerCoors replace the steam traps connected to each of the five heat exchangers with automatic pump trap skids. The team also recommended replacing the pressurized collection receiver with the supplier’s fabricated collection receiver and five pressure-powered pumps. The proposal was presented as a turn-key project including installation and project management. The Spirax Sarco team committed to finishing all proposed work in less than one month from receipt of the MillerCoors purchase order, which required coordination with the brewery’s heavy production schedule.

With the project completed on time and within budget, the brewery met its water and energy-savings target in the packaging building. The results showed attainment of the 85 percent condensate recovery goal, with an annual savings of 5,369,274 gallons of water and 305,894 therms (1 therm = 100,000 BTU). As a result, the brewery experienced a faster equipment heat-up time and improved packaging capacity and throughput.

For more information, contact Steve Beatty at Spirax Sarco, 800-883-4411.