While MillerCoors is recognized as an established brand in the brewing industry, Merrick & Company is on a similar path for advanced biofuels. What would happen if these superpowers in their respective fields combined?
By Nick Wolfe
The two companies have actually already joined forces-more than 15 years ago, when Merrick designed and implemented an ethanol-recovery system on-site at MillerCoors in Golden, Colorado.
The brewery provides the feed stream and utilities into the project that is owned, financed, and maintained by Merrick.
By converting the waste stream into profitable fuel-grade ethanol, three million gallons are produced each year. The fuel is then pumped into trucks for delivery to filling stations operated by Suncor, Valero, and Sinclair across the Front Range.
The continuous production process involves vaporizing the residual waste stream from the brewery and stripping it of alcohol. From there, the water is removed which leaves a final product of 200-proof ethanol.
The entire process reduces greenhouse gases by 50% as compared to ordinary fuel production. Ethanol price is then determined by market conditions and production, much like normal gasoline.
A long-term contract for Colorado’s Front Range Clean Air programs assures viable ethanol production in a similar manner to a power purchase agreement (PPA). In 2005, the plant was expanded to accommodate the production levels currently feasible.
Merrick Vice President Steve Wagner attributes passing of the 2007 (EISA) Renewable Fuels Standard to assisting increased biofuels development and policy support.
The production mandates established a minimum amount of biofuels to be produced each year. Current regulations dictate that 36 billion gallons must be blended into transportation fuel by 2022.
“Oil companies will have to go out and find fuel or develop technologies,” says Wagner
This ensures that advanced biofuels will be continually produced and promotes the development of new technologies from the private sector. It also places a cap on the amount of domestically produced corn ethanol at a maximum of 15 billion gallons in order to protect food prices.
With global commodity costs currently reaching all-time highs, volatile import and export conditions are creating more attractive incentives for domestic production from non-food sources.
A GROWING NICHE
The success of its project in Golden has enabled Merrick to replicate the design and process for other breweries. Partnerships with the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) further demonstrate a commitment to advanced biofuels through cooperation with government research and higher education.
Headquartered in Aurora, Colorado, Merrick & Company develops renewable energy and bioprocessing projects worldwide. The firm is a member of the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association, the Renewable Fuels Association, the American Wind Energy Association, and the US Green Building Council.
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