Every drop of water matters at the MillerCoors Trenton Brewery.
The company said it cut water usage in 2012 by 6.1 percent to a record low 3.82 barrels of water for every barrel of beer brewed across MillerCoors’ eight major U.S. breweries.
In 2013, MillerCoors said it has cut its water use another nearly 9 percent.
The Trenton brewery in Butler County, 2525 Wayne Madison Road, is helping lead the company’s water conservation initiative. The Trenton brewery’s year-to-date ratio is 3.23 barrels of water for every one barrel of beer, falling below the company average and the second lowest of the eight MillerCoors breweries.
Trenton brewery vice president and plant manager Denise Quinn said water is a key beer-making ingredient.
Water is important to the maker of Miller High Life, Molson Golden and Keystone as a business, but it’s also important because the Trenton brewery sits on top of the natural Great Miami River Buried Valley Aquifer and employees feel a responsibility to protect that, Quinn said. The local brewery pumps 2.5 million gallons of water a day, and produces 9.4 to 9.5 million barrels of beer a year, according to MillerCoors.
Also, some MillerCoors breweries and that of its parent companies SABMiller Molson Coors are placed in locations where water scarcity is an issue, Quinn said.
The breweries are sharing best practices worldwide.
“We believe we can go lower,” she said.
“So much of it has really been about people and processes,” she said. “Now what we’re looking at is, (are) there things that potentially we’re going to have to make some investment in?”
Every process and piece of equipment at the plant is under scrutiny.
In 2012, it was a “baseline year” for the Trenton brewery to gather data and track exactly how water is used in the facility, by whom, etc., Quinn said.
Meters have been installed that track water use by department, production line, area or piece of equipment. Meters measure the water quantities above and below targeted usage for each process. Water flow is tracked on as short a time frame as possible to immediately detect if something’s gone off course and correct it, Quinn said.
“Short interval control is about time and pinpointing locations,” she said.
Every day there is a morning meeting where daily targets are analyzed.
“We do a theoretical use of water based on the work for that day so the volume of beer that’s going to be produced and packaged. If they go outside that theoretical, then we know we have to go in and investigate and make sure that we pull back in whatever might be causing that,” Quinn said.
Another example that saved water was changes made to the pasteurizer — a high water user on the packaging line. The piece of equipment was updated to reuse and recycle water.
“We are able to flow water back that’s used for cooling back through to where we need the heat part of it. We run it through various pieces of equipment that allow us to get the right temperatures,” Quinn said. “We try to make it somewhat of a closed loop, so we continue to use the water and reduce the amount that we have to add in.”
In April and June, Trenton achieved water use of less than 3 barrels of water per one of beer. When it was done in April, Trenton was the first MillerCoors brewery to come under that mark.
The goal companywide is to average 3.5 barrels of water per beer barrel by 2015. However, MillerCoors Trenton hopes to make 3 barrels of water the norm, Quinn said.
“It’s big and small,” she said. “There were some pretty large pieces of work that we could do and then there were the everyday nuts and bolts pieces around looking for leaks, making sure things were installed properly.”
The Trenton brewery opened in 1991.
In 2010, the brewery, which produces 63 beer brands and employs 560, became a zero waste landfill brewery.
In addition to the water conservation effort, Quinn also revealed that construction is underway on a new plastic bottle manufacturing line.
“Today a lot of the 32, 40 ounce is glass. We’re actually going to transition and we have a line that is being built at this time that will actually produce 32 and 40 ounce in a plastic bottle,” she said. “We will actually do the blow moulding of the forms” into the shape of the bottle and will fill, package and ship those beers.
MillerCoors is a joint venture of SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Co.