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Brewing up a record

An Austrian brewery – Schwechat – is aiming to become the world’s most environmentally friendly, thanks to a comprehensive energy strategy. RACreports

Schwechat brewery is one of eight breweries belonging to Austrian beer producer Brau Union Österreich AG, which is itself part of brewing giant Heineken.

Schwechat therefore also supports the sustainability programme of the Heineken Group – a tough set of energy goals that brought Heineken the coveted End User of the Year title at the 2014 Cooling Awards – together with the aim of becoming the world’s most environmentally friendly brewing company.

Accordingly, Schwechat brewery has implemented a number of energy saving projects.

Johnson Controls has extended the life-cycle of Schwechat’s 25-year old ammonia-operated refrigeration system by implementing innovative solutions in the interests of energy management and optimised energy efficiency.

Costs recouped

Thanks to this upgrade, Schwechat was able to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 22 per cent, as well as cutting energy costs by €30,000 (£21,066).

The costs for the highly efficient system were recouped within just two and a half years, ultimately reducing the costs per can.

In a preliminary study, Johnson Controls discovered several challenges, applying both to the beer industry in general and to Schwechat in particular.

Prior to the cooling specialist’s involvement, the brewery spent €135,000 each year on the energy for its refrigeration system and at the same time was expected to comply with the requirements stipulated in Heineken’s sustainability programme.

In checking the brewery plant, Johnson Controls detected opportunities for saving energy and drew up the correct energy profile for the system. This enabled Johnson Controls to calculate a payback period that would enable the specification of an innovative alternative.

Given the crucial importance of precise temperature and pressure control throughout the whole process involved in beermaking, Schwechat did not want to take any risks with the upgrade, specifying that it be implemented without interruption to workflow.

The project began in November 2013 and was concluded in February 2014. Johnson Controls proposed replacing the electric motor of the existing STAL-57 screw compressor with a permanent-magnet synchronous motor  (three times smaller than an asynchronous motor, but with the same torque) and a frequency converter.

The upgrade offered advantages:

  • Higher pressure stability;
  • Precise temperature control;
  • Less starting up/shutting down;
  • Increase in capacity;
  • Up to 30 per cent energy saving per year;
  • No motor slip, as rotor and rotary field have the same drive;
  • Reduced fooprint, reducing transport and plant costs.

Energy savings

The energy savings together with lower maintenance costs have the effect of reducing the ‘cost per can’ for the brewery too.

The new plant, with a total refrigeration capacity of 1.2 MW, enabled Schwechat to reduce the annual energy costs by approximately €30,000, creating a payback of just 29 months.

By cutting its emissions by 23 tonnes CO2 equivalent, the brewery has gained significant ground on its environmental journey.

In addition, the modernisation measures significantly reduced maintenance costs. Extending the life-cycle of the existing plants is a motivation to invest in energy efficiency, Johnson Controls said.

Now that the payback period has been confirmed, Schwechat also plans to upgrade the plant’s other compressors. The results have effectively turned Schwechat into a showcase for what might be achieved, and an example for other breweries belonging to brau Union Österreich AG.

 “Johnson Controls has demonstrated that simple technical measures can help us to achieve more,” says Andreas Schmutz, Head of Plant Technology at Schwechat Brewery.

“We have entrusted our long-standing partner with this project because we knew that Johnson Controls would propose innovative solutions that comply with our interests and objectives.

“By extending the life-cycle of the existing plants, we have sent out a strong signal to the industry: this too is sustainability.”

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