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Tequila from 100% Biomass Yields 80% GHG Cut

It may not eliminate your hangover, but it might make you feel better about what you’re drinking. Growing your own renewable fuel is one of the most organic approaches a company can take. Tequila Cazadores has committed to exactly this approach in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. The tequila brand’s new, massive biomass boiler sits juxtaposed to the peaceful, rolling Arandas hills and fields of spiky blue-leaved agave plants.

Nothing goes to waste here. The plants are used to make the liquid and power the distillery. With sections large enough for groups of people to walk through, and a colossal arrangement of pipes and rugged engineering, the new boiler at the distillery is 100% biomass fueled. While you may have a difference of opinion with the business from a corporate social responsibility point of view, the approach represents a growing innovation by breweries and distilleries, which are a natural fit for such renewable technology.

The Arandas-based distillery’s biomass boiler harnesses every bit of green energy it can from the discards made during regular production of the brand’s top-shelf spirits. But the sustainability doesn’t stop there, as the ashes created within the boiler are used for composting, transforming the ashes into a nutrient-rich soil supplement.

About 60% of the biofuel used to produce the world-renowned Tequila Cazadores, known for using only blue agave, comes from spent agave fibers, which equates to about 11,000 tons a year. The other 40% is made up of about 8,000 tons of carbon-neutral, renewable fuel sources such as clean waste wood, biomass briquettes, sawdust, coconut shell, and tree cuttings. In fact, half of the biomass used comes from what used to be considered waste. Together, the organic materials fill the enormous biomass boiler where they are transformed into the fuel needed to generate the steam power required for the agave sugar extraction process, cooking and distillation of the brand’s tequila, using the same original recipe from 1922.

The Arandas tequila distillery, established in 1973, says it managed to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by more than 80% when it swapped out the two fossil-fuel dependent boilers that used 2,000 tons of heavy fuel oil each year for the new, clean-burning biomass boiler. This GHG reduction is equivalent to 6,500 tons of CO2. The new boiler also reduced noise pollution by about 20% compared to the old boilers.

Eduardo Vallado of parent company Bacardi, who is vice president of supply chain and manufacturing for Bacardi in the Americas, said that Bacardi recognizes that global climate change has the potential to affect the company and the production of its brands. He added that the biomass boiler changeover in Mexico is one of many to come.

The immense boiler conversion took 18 months to plan, 10 months to execute. The boiler has now been in operation for more than one year. The Arandas facility’s biomass boiler is the largest among all of the Bacardi facilities worldwide. During the project, many lessons were learned, which will help other facilities within the Bacardi global infrastructure as they opt for greener technology to reach the Company’s long-term sustainability goals. As an example, Vallado said that “during the commissioning of the boiler we discovered there is a tipping point on the amount of biomass you can feed and the energy you can get, [where] feeding in more biomass results in less energy transfer efficiency. Finding this sweet spot was time-consuming.” Additionally, Vallado said that although at first they thought that they could manage the natural humidity level, they experienced disminished performance during the rainy season and were wasting energy in heating all that water in the biomass. This led to the construction of several shrouds around the biomass handling system.

Bacardi claims that since since 2006, when it began tracking its global impact on the environment, it has  improved water use efficiency by 46% and reduced its GHG intensity ratio by 46%. Its goals include obtaining all raw materials and packaging from sustainably sourced, renewable or recycled materials while maintaining or enhancing the economic status of growers and suppliers. Bacardi hopes to obtain 40% of the sugarcane-derived products used to make its rum from certified, sustainable sources – and 100% by 2022. Additionally, the company aims to eliminate landfill waste at all of its production sites by 2022.

About Tom Breunig (63 Articles)
Tom Breunig is principal at Cleantech Concepts, a market research firm tracking R&D projects in the cleantech sector. He is a technology industry veteran and former international marketing and communications executive who has worked with organizations in semiconductor design, water monitoring, energy efficiency and environmental sensing. He has spoken at numerous technology and energy conferences.
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