When a food or beverage processor begins breaking down costs, sometimes startling facts are revealed. Here’s a case in point: Widmer Brothers Brewery (Portland, Ore.), founded in 1984 and part of the Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), had been using a liquid ring vacuum pump to bottle its beers, but realized the technology was consuming roughly 5,000 gallons of water per day. Not only was this costly ($5,000 in water costs annually), but it was also creating unnecessary expenses in sewage costs (with extra strength charges tagged on to the bill), to the tune of $30,000 annually.
After teaming up and consulting with Atlas Copco, a provider of sustainable productivity solutions, Widmer Brothers looked at other pumping technologies that might go a little easier on resources. The solution: The brewery upgraded to the Atlas Copco GHS VSD+ rotary screw vacuum pump. This application is said to be the first-known waterless vacuum pump in the craft beer industry.
“Unlike the liquid ring pump, the GHS VSD+ uses a foam-dampening water trap to capture water and foam during the bottling process,” says Greg Marciniak, Atlas Copco business development manager for the Industrial Vacuum Division. “Without the risk of liquid and foam entering the system, Widmer Brothers Brewery has peace of mind that their system will stay up and running without excess liquid potentially flooding the production floor. It not only keeps the area safe, it also drives down product waste.”
With the new rotary screw vacuum pump, the brewery saves ample time and energy in the bottling process. By replacing the liquid ring pump, the brewery has reduced water consumption by 5,000 gallons per day, which saves a total of $35,000 annually in water and sewage fees.
Although the equipment upgrade was originally driven by the desire to save water and avoid wastewater and extra-strength sewage disposal charges, the pump has also had an impact on energy consumption. In switching to a variable-speed drive rotary screw vacuum pump, the system now produces a deeper vacuum with half the horsepower. Think energy savings close to $4,000 annually. What’s not to like about that?
“Widmer Brothers Brewery has a long history of supporting clean water and investing in innovative ways to protect beer’s number-one ingredient,” says Julia Person, brewery sustainability manager. “We’re excited to partner with Atlas Copco to pioneer the first waterless vacuum pump in the craft beer industry, and it’s been great seeing how this innovation will lead to new energy and water saving technologies to be shared with our peers.”