Did you know that breweries have traditionally relied on CO2 as the essential gas for all brewing processes? That’s right; from tank purging and bottling to inerting, carbon dioxide has historically been a brewery’s gas of choice. However, this may not be the case for much longer! Enter nitrogen, an inert gas that has been fully embraced by the food and beverage industry as an alternative to CO2. There are three key reasons that illustrate why breweries should consider the switch from CO2 to N2: practicality, sustainability, and economy.
Why Should Breweries Make the Switch from CO2 to N2?
Before we dive in, let’s make one distinction: on-site nitrogen generation for your brewery isn’t about completely removing CO2 from your operation! Instead, it’s about leveraging the efficiency and cost advantages of nitrogen compared to CO2, as well as reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.
No matter the shape or size of the brewery, using nitrogen gas generated on-site during the brewing process is in industry’s best interest. With six standard packages, a nitrogen generator is available to cover around 80% of all breweries – from those producing a few thousand barrels a year to several hundred thousand barrels a year. A brewery can also oversize its nitrogen generator to accommodate for growth while simultaneously maintaining efficiency. There is even the option to add a second generator if the brewery’s business expands substantially!
Practicality. As we mentioned above, the food and beverage industry trusts nitrogen as a CO2 alternative. It’s the go-to gas choice to remove oxygen from all types of packed goods, including beer. When purging tanks, nitrogen makes the tank oxygen-free, thus preventing oxidation and subsequent contamination. N2 is also used for cleaning, inerting, and pressurizing kegs, bottles, and cans before filling. So many applications – and so many uses for nitrogen!
Sustainability. Fun fact: replacing a portion of CO2 with nitrogen significantly reduces a brewery’s carbon footprint. When the nitrogen used in a brewing process is released, it merely returns into the air it came from, which eliminates greenhouse gas emissions. We can also ground this thought in real numbers: a brewery producing 10,000 barrels/year that replaces two-thirds of its CO2 consumption with N2 can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 24 metric tons per year.
Economy. In simple terms, nitrogen costs less than CO2 – a lot less. Brewers are typically paying about $0.10 to $0.15 CCF using on-site nitrogen generation. You can easily compare this number to what you're paying today for CO2 in gas cylinders, which can easily cost 50X this amount. Additionally, in remote areas, the cost of CO2 can double or even triple, depending on how far the brewery is from the gas distribution center.
By switching to on-site nitrogen generation, brewers can significantly improve production, greatly reduce their carbon footprint, and save a substantial amount of money. If you’d like to learn more about what this would look like in your brewery, visit us here!