Since late 2021 the natural gas price has been somewhat unpredictable. Wholesale prices in the UK went from a stable 60p per therm to a peak of 640p per therm in the space of just 1 year. Almost inconceivably that’s a 967% price increase.*
As natural gas is some woven into the fabric of our economy there is no surprise this has resulted in extremely difficult trading conditions for businesses (and I mean, significantly more difficult for households).
A really interesting statistic is the overall UK demand for gas fell in 2022 by 9.6% to 799,477 GWh - the lowest total demand since 2014.**
This is nearly all driven by business demand declining. So had the previously reliable and ‘cheaper’ gas prices caused us to become inefficient with our natural gas usages? And has the huge spike in energy costs caused us to evaluate our inefficiencies?
Well in this article we will share the top 5 most common sources of gas wastage.
Where is natural gas most used in a craft brewery?
It’s the most common fuel used to fire up our thermal heat sources whether that’s for our steam boilers, gas-fuelled water burners or direct fire systems, in general craft brewing can be pretty gas hungry.
The current industry standard is 72 kWh of gas per 1hl of packaged beer.
With the 2022 UK craft beer production estimated at 2.8 million hectolitres that means craft breweries use an estimated 201,600,000 kWh of gas a year.
Which equates to That’s 37,037 tonnes of CO2e a year.
What are the most common causes of gas inefficiency?
1. Waiting for a service to fix an inefficiency in your heat source 🔧
Most craft breweries get their boiler/burner/heater serviced once a year, generally it’s the law. Some insurance companies require twice a year checks.
Regular servicing can improve the efficiency of your heat generator. However, your brewery should be monitoring for an inefficiency not relying on a service engineer to find one.
With proper monitoring of gas consumption per hl packaged volume you will see far quicker when an issue causing inefficiency has risen and you can act that month, rather than 5-11 months later.
Want to know if your gas consumption is abnormal? Benchmark your results here.
2. Heat Loss 🔥
Leaks make another list of inefficiencies article. But this one comes with 2 parts.
Firstly, of course visual leaks should be fixed as soon as possible. Steam leaks are extremely apparent and in the most part are extremely dangerous, naturally these should be dealt with immediately.
But another type of leak doesn’t carry the same level of health risk and sometimes aren’t dealt with. These are leaks of heat, so any aspect of the closed loop system that is exposed without proper insulation will be leaking heat, gas, scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions and of course that sweet 💷💷💷.
3. Unnecessary Boil Times/Techniques 📉
Here’s a challenge for you. Why do you boil the time you do? Why is that specific minute the optimum time?
I like to think 90 minute boils are a thing of the past (perhaps they still lie entrenched in historic beer recipes?) So most craft brewers adopt a 60 minute boil time.
We’re all aware of why we boil. But with the huge variance of designs of boil kettle, heating elements, temperate in boil, vigour of boil, type of wort in the kettle (the list could go on) why do we all boil for the exact same time?
If you could achieve the same in 45 minutes that you could in 60 minutes, that’s a 20% saving on energy in the boil.
Furthermore, are you boiling continuously? Is there an option to pulse the heat rather than have it on continuously?
Neither of these projects are overly complex to take on but both require proper validation in order for success. I have seen some really good results on the back of this.
It’s fun to challenge the norms of our industry.
4. Wort Heat Loss 🔥📉
Do you pay to heat up your wort twice?
Depending on your brewhouse design heat loss between lauter tun and wort kettle can be substantial. The temperature of wort leaving the Lauter Tun should be the same (or as close as) to the temperature of the same wort entering the wort kettle.
Beyond the obvious extra cost of double heating any solution, now your wort is dense its heat capacity decreases so it’s now more expensive to heat up.
There are also time ramifications here as losing heat in your mash rest and transfer from Mash Tun/Lauter Tun to Wort Kettle will cost more time to heat up (especially as it is denser) so your brewhouse is now not being utilised correctly too.
Here’s a hint, if you have an underback – don’t.
5. Hot Water Management (HWM) 🔥💧
Is hot water management the number one skill of a craft brewer?
It’s not cool or sexy but I certainly think it’s up there. I reckon I’ve probably lost close to a year of my life waiting for hot liquor tanks to refill after some haphazard hot water management practises.
Of course, from a gas point of view, wasted hot water is just wasted energy.
Recovery of cooling water from wort cooling is an obvious must. But the process of wort cooling will influence the amount of water and at what temperature you are recovering will play a role in your HWM.
What happens if your Hot Liquor Tank is full and your still recovering? Should that be happening? And if it does where is that recovery water going?
Where else are you using hot water, is it necessary and importantly is it optimal?
Hot Water Management is ultimately a managerial level directive. Executed by everyone else. A full audit should take place annually to assess whether the current directive is correct.
So in summary, loads of potential spots for inefficiency to creep in on your gas consumption.
Do some of these feel familiar to your brewery?
Brew Resourceful can help. From calculating your current usage to benchmarking it against other breweries and offering proven strategies to reduce gas consumption.
Adios Amigos 👋