2017 Master Brewers Conference
85. Risks and rewards of anaerobic digester systems for craft brewery wastewater treatment

Manaf Farhan, EMG International, Inc., Media, PA, U.S.A.


In seeking to perfect their craft through innovation and creativity, brewers face challenges in every aspect of their business. In addition to the pressures of developing new products for a diverse and growing consumer base, craft brewers must also confront numerous operational and financial challenges, including the trade-offs involved in choosing to pursue sustainable brewing methods and maintaining a commitment to minimizing their carbon footprint and reducing their overall impact on the environment. Breweries have made substantial improvements in water consumption over the past couple of decades. Despite these advances, wastewater treatment and disposal remains one of the most significant operational and financial issues affecting most breweries. The rewards that come with disposing of wastewater in an environmentally friendly manner generally carry considerable economic costs. As breweries have sought the best solution for waste stream management, many have turned to digester systems for wastewater treatment and energy generation. This paper discusses the risks and rewards of using anaerobic digester systems for craft brewery wastewater treatment. Risks of anaerobic digester systems for brewery wastewater treatment presented in this paper include: potential issues with project budgeting, schedule, system performance, operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, operator training, and outgrowing the capacity of the digester system. Rewards of anaerobic digester systems for brewery wastewater treatment outlined in this paper include: improved regulatory compliance, potentially significant financial returns from wastewater surcharge fee savings and revenues from renewable energy generation, a positive environmental impact through reduction of the overall brewery "beer print" by lowering organic and solids discharge in the treated wastewater, and providing the brewery with the ability to control its "wastewater destiny." This paper relies on performance results from operational anaerobic digester systems at four leading craft breweries in the United States as case studies. Project execution, long-term system performance data, and lessons learned will be discussed.

Manaf H. Farhan is the president and CEO of EMG International based in Media, Pennsylvania. He holds a B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Notre Dame, a master's degree in environmental engineering from Columbia University, and master's and Ph.D. degrees in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a licensed Professional Engineer. His doctoral research focused on design and optimization of various anaerobic digester processes to maximize process efficiency and biogas production. He has authored several peer-reviewed articles on anaerobic digestion, and has served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He has more than 20 years of experience providing a wide range of environmental engineering design and consulting services to private industry and governmental clients. His professional experience includes: design and construction of digester systems for wastewater treatment and biogas and electricity generation for food and beverage facilities and for dairy farms; technical evaluation, process modifications, and operational support for various full-scale anaerobic digester installations; development and testing of bench-scale and pilot-scale wastewater treatment systems; pollution prevention and wastewater minimization audits; and biogas collection, clean-up, and utilization. His educational background and direct experience designing and installing digester systems makes Dr. Farhan one of only a few anaerobic digestion experts in the country.

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