Wolfgang Bengel, the technical director at German biomass company BMP Biomasse Projekt, saw a business opportunity in solving the breweries’ grain waste headache. He reasoned that the leftover grain could be used to create steam and biogas, which would provide energy for the breweries, cheapening their energy costs as well as their costs of transporting grain to farms.
Bengel has successfully treated the residue from rice and sugar cane in boilers with atmospheric fluidized bed combustion systems, to produce energy in China and Thailand, and Bengel thought a similar process could be developed for the breweries’ spent wet grain. Water would first have to be removed from the wet spent grain, the grain would have to be dried and then burned to produce energy. “Beer making is energy intensive – you boil stuff, use hot water and steam and then use electric energy for cooling – so if you recover more than 50 percent of your own energy costs from the spent grain that’s a big saving,” says Bengel.