Devon’s Utopian Brewing have used their 4th Anniversary today to release their first full carbon audit covering all of their Scope 1,2 and 3 emissions, using BIER and GHG protocol Guidelines. The company has also announced that it has applied to join the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) for Green House Gas (GHG) emission reduction.
Releasing the report co-founder and Managing Director Richard Archer said “Creating a sustainable business was in our core values right from the very start but today marks a very important landmark in the development of our longer term goal of reducing our Green House Gas emissions and ultimately becoming a net zero brewery. We now have a benchmark to measure ourselves against and have a number of major investments in progress that will deliver significant reduction in our emissions in the short term. These first initiatives are predicted to make annual reductions of over 40 tonnes CO2e per year more than 10% of our total in 2022.
The application to join SBTi, subject to approval, will provide the company with a clearly defined path to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement –pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. Being a part of the initiative will also provide an essential auditable framework to track progress against targets and to continuously announce and report on our progress to stakeholders.”
Utopian’s Carbon Audit Report was researched and produced by Samuel Ticehurst who the company had first met whilst he was completing his MSc thesis “Creating Sustainable Value in the UK Craft-brewing Industry” at Bath University. Richard was impressed with the work and Samuel’s passion for both GHG reduction and the brewing sector. It also highlighted that whilst many of the smaller craft and independent breweries were making positive noises around carbon emission reduction there seemed to be limited tangible progress.
Richard Archer found this situation concerning and so it became the driver to quickly ‘up the ante’ at Utopian, starting with the commissioning of this full Scope 1, 2 and 3 Audit. The results, published today, will place much more focus on the practical steps now needed to meet the companies GHG emission goals and also provides the catalyst to join the small band of sustainability pioneers in the craft beer industry.
At its inception Utopian invested in a number of key technologies to reinforce its commitment to brewing sustainably. The company’s decision to only brew with British grown ingredients was driven entirely by a desire to reduce food miles. The company installed nitrogen generation to reduce CO2 use in the brewery, lit the brewhouse with movement sensing LED lighting and installed large heat exchangers to recover the bulk of the heat energy from the Wort (pre fermented beer) post the boil phase to re stock the hot liquor tank for the next brew.
On the packaging front the company uses no single use plastic and over 95% of the cartons used are made from FSC approved card all of which have had a positive impact on emissions. However it was clear that there was much more to be done and this was why it was essential to Archer that a full scope 1,2 ad 3 audit was completed as quickly as practical.
Many companies are currently only measuring and reporting on Scope 1 and 2 emissions. The importance of measuring Scope 3 emissions, however, is well explained by the Carbon Trust and an extract from that is provided below.
As Archer says “Measuring the amount of gas and electricity you use in the brewhouse and petrol in your delivery vans (scopes 1 and 2) and looking at how to reduce them is clearly important. But in all business, and from our results particularly in breweries, it’s the Scope 3 indirect emissions where the largest amount of the carbon footprint comes from so it is essential to focus on those if you want to make real progress towards net zero.”
As mentioned previously the company has two major investments currently nearing completion that will make a positive and immediate impact on reducing emissions. Currently the company has no access to mains drainage so has needed to tanker waste-water away for off site processing. An expensive and high CO2 impact process. The first stage of its waste water processing system has arrived on site this week with completion expected in April. This 6 figure sum investment is predicted to save over 7 tonnes CO2e per annum once the final stage is completed. It will also contribute significant cost saving. The second major project is for CO2 capture from the fermentation tanks in the brewery. Until recently not available at smaller scale Danish firm Dalum have developed technology to capture and clean the CO2 generated in fermentation. Utopian’s unit is ordered and scheduled for delivery in April 2023. The estimates are that this will make the company completely self sufficient in CO2 and the calculated emissions savings from this initiative is predicted to be over 34 tonnes CO2e per annum
Commenting on these initiatives Archer said “These projects are very significant capital investments for the business but as well as making a very significant contribution to reducing our emissions they will both also make significant operational cost savings. With resulting short payback periods these projects will provid genuine and tangible evidence that reducing emissions is not only good for the planet but can also be good for profitability”
Not everything will be as straightforward though in tackling some of the other big emissions contributors most notably in Utopian’s case the Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) used to power the steam boiler, which contributed 90 tonnes CO2e in 2022. Bio Methane is a much greener fuel than LPG and the boiler can be easily converted. Bio methane is also a bi product from anaerobic digesters (AD) which are common place in the agricultural areas of the South West around Utopian. This is a frustrating area for Archer and one where he thinks government action and changes could be required.
“Converting the boiler from LPG to Bio Methane is the easy bit. The problem is currently that the AD plant operators can simple blend their bio methane into the natural gas grid supply and get the benefit from the current high fossil fuel gas prices. Also since all renewal energy prices are linked to the gas price the cost of bio methane is kept at an artificially high level. What is even more frustrating is that farmers in our area are increasingly stopping producing for food and growing crops for Ad instead, as they can get high prices for crops to effectively prop up the natural gas supply. That seems bonkers to me”. Anearobic Digester plants are also one of the few remaining renewable technologies that receive government ‘carbon credit’ grants and this is why Archer thinks the government needs to re assess the bio methane supply issue. “AD is a great way of processing waste into energy but if it is going to continue to receive subsidy as a ‘renewable’ technology then I think there needs to be a serious review of how it can be supplied to replace fossil fuels rather than to simply top them up at inflated prices.”
In summing up todays exciting announcements though Archer was upbeat “Despite the challenge with boiler fuel I am very excited about the next stage of our sustainability journey, in continuing to further reduce our GHG emissions and onwards towards our ultimate goal of net zero.
We already have a number of other initiatives in process or planning stage and the whole program has been a great way to galvanise the team around a topic that they are all very passionate about. Joining the SBTi will be the icing on the cake for us and we look forward to being accepted and to publishing our Science Based plan for GHG emission reduction in the very near future.”
ABOUT UTOPIAN BREWING
Utopian Brewing is a young independent brewery based on a farm site near Crediton Devon. Now employing a team of 11 the brewery was set up to produce a range of high quality accessible lagers using only British grown ingredients. The brewery now also produces a small range of traditional cask ales. In 2022 Utopian won 3 golds and one siver medal in the prestigious World Beer Awards, 1 platinum 2 gold and one silver in the Food Drink Devon awards and also the “Best drink product in Devon”.
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ABOUT SAMUEL TICEHURST
Sam is now a Sustainability Consultant at Carnstone partners following a period of consultancy where he completed Utopian’s Carbon Audit. He holds a BEng in Chemical Engineering, and an MSc in Engineering Business Management, both from the University of Bath.
An extract from his MSc Thesis which was the catalyst for the Carbon Audit reads thus hold a BEng in Chemical Engineering, and an MSc in Engineering Business Management, both from the University of Bath
“The UK has established by law the need for UK industries to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Large-scale breweries have increasingly risen to this challenge, investing in new technologies and altering operations to reduce their emissions. However, the craft-brewing industry has shown less progress. There are few papers studying the emissions of craft-breweries, none of which are UK-based, and none highlighting the necessary changes to allow de-carbonisation by 2050. This study investigates the current standing of UK craft-breweries regarding sustainability, assessed through semi-structured interviews, before offering recommendations to key stakeholders. 7/9 breweries are taking no steps to understand their emissions, whilst four have no plans to make de-carbonisation changes. The major barriers to making changes are understanding the problem, immaturity of required technologies and financial barriers. None of the breweries felt any legislative pressure to reduce their emissions, whilst seven felt no external pressure at all”.
Press release from Utopian Brewing.
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