The World’s Most Water Efficient Brewery

25th July 2021

At the Carlsberg brewery in Fredericia, Denmark on May 6, Carlsberg was inaugurating a new, revolutionary water recycling plant that recycles 90% of the process water, while reducing energy consumption by 10% through own biogas production and recirculation of hot water.

According to the sustainability programme, which was set out by the company and called Together Towards ZERO, the goal is to reach to virtually eliminate water waste across all its breweries by 2030.

“We launched Together Towards ZERO as an integral part of the Carlsberg Group’s SAIL’22 strategy, and have been working to deliver against the four major ambitions since – ZERO carbon footprint, ZERO water waste, ZERO irresponsible drinking and a ZERO accidents culture,” says Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, Senior Director of Sustainability at Carlsberg Group.

With the new water recycling plant, the Fredericia brewery save more than 500 million liters of water a year. 90 percent of process water is recycled in the production facility. Water consumption will be halved from the current 2.9 hl of water per hl of beer to 1.4 hl of water per hl of beer. As an addition information, when the brewery first opened in 1979, the water-to-beer ratio was 4:1 at a time when the global norm was above 6:1.

Photo of Gammel Carlsber truck by Ethan Kan on Wikimedia

“We are immensely proud to be able to unveil the world’s most water efficient brewing facility. Water is a basic ingredient in all our products, so water resource management is a high priority. Our water to beer ratio has always been low. Now we are taking it a step further. By recycling process water in our production, we are virtually eliminating water waste,” says Philip Hodges, EVP Integrated Supply Chain, Carlsberg Group.

“The plant in Fredericia is built on a new and innovative approach to cleaning and recycling process water where you, among other things, use UV-light to eliminate bacteria. At the same time biogas is produced as a residual product, which can be used to produce energy. It is a whole new form of circularity in food production. In fact, the process water ends up being clean enough to drink, but we are only using the water to clean the production facilities,” says Carlsberg Denmark Brewing Director, Anders Kokholm.

The full process includes:

  • Screens to remove coarse material
  • A reactor to remove degradable organics and produce biogas.
  • Biological polishing step and activated sludge process, for removal of the remaining organics and nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Ultrafiltration (UF) membranes, as part of an installed membrane biological reactor process.
  • After the UF stage, a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane plant produce a yield 90 per cent recycled water. The remaining 10 per cent is then discharged into the municipal sewer, to a saltwater recipient, ”otherwise this concentrated brine is a big issue”, added Nøhr Bak.
  • After the RO, an advanced oxidation process removes the small organics that pass through the membranes.
  • Hereafter, a remineralisation filter add some hardness back to the system to avoid corrosion in the existing piping system of the brewery
  • At the end, chlorine dioxide is added to maintain disinfection potential.

Image of the 2022, 2030 targets by Carlsberg in the Sustainability Report.

This state-of-the-art total water recycling plant has been made possible through a progressive public-private partnership, DRIP (the Danish partnership for Resource and water-efficient Industrial food Production). The project involves not only universities, technology providers and global experts but also the Danish veterinary, environment and food authorities, ensuring that it meets Denmark’s high food and environment standards. – as it is stated on their website.

The company partnered with suppliers, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisation) and in 2020 with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). They are aligned with the targets of the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

Read more about the Carlsberg Group Together Towards ZERO sustainability programme, the Sustainability Report, or the  Sustainability Summary.

Szilvia Kullai