Brewers find success with environmentally friendly piping


Founders Brewing has installed special piping that allows it to reuse heat generated during the brewing process for other purposes. Photo by Johnny Quirin

Craft brewers seem to be on a continuous journey to become more environmentally friendly.

The industry uses a lot of water, heat and agricultural products, and many of the companies recognize the need to take care of the environment, not just for the good of the world but also for their pocketbooks.

Founders Brewing Co. has taken great strides to increase its environmental efforts — along with its annual output of barrels of beer brewed. So in its recent expansion, the company sought out a way to make use of excess heat produced when cooling its beer.

Seaman’s Mechanical has worked closely with Founders on many projects, so when the brewery asked for a recommendation on the project, Seaman’s recommended a pipe product called Aquatherm. The product was developed in Germany 40 years ago and has been used in a variety of applications globally, but only recently in North America.

“They were looking for a product that could suit their needs for a project that was a heat reclaim,” said Justin Anes, an account manager at Columbia Pipe & Supply, which sells the product. “They’re cooling the beer with a chiller and heat is created in that cycle, and you can reclaim that heat and use it in other areas.”

The new pipes carry water that is used to preheat the air coming into the building, Anes said. He said other uses for the heat could go to heating water or putting it into radiant heating through the floor.

Founders isn’t the first brewery to utilize Aquatherm; Utah’s Epic Brewing Co., Montana’s Big Sky Brewing, Ann Arbor’s Arbor Brewing Co. and several others have chosen the piping for various uses in their production facilities. It’s ideal for use in breweries because the product is inert and doesn’t react with water or with glycol, which is used for cooling.

Anes said the Aquatherm piping is an easy sell to environmentally conscious breweries as it’s one of the most environmentally friendly piping products. Most such products require a cleaner and adhesive to put together, Anes said, but the polypropylene plastic of Aquatherm requires only heat to create a leak-proof seal.

Aquatherm piping also can be recycled simply by grinding it up and reforming it.

“We were looking at a project that was environmentally friendly,” Anes said. “It all made sense; we’re complementing it with an environmentally friendly product.”

The piping system costs a little less than steel piping and up to 20 percent more than stainless steel or copper piping, up front. The customer does save money on the installation of Aquatherm, Anes said.

There are also long-term benefits to the system. Anes said the Aquatherm system can run more efficiently in a water-based project than using metallic pipes. It also can withstand temperatures up to 200 degrees, which is higher than most other plastic piping that loses its shape at high temperatures.

“There’s a little more upfront cost, but the cost savings are on the owner,” he said. “With metals, minerals build up and cause erosion and corrosion. We don’t have that with Aquatherm. Our system can last twice as long.”

Aquatherm has received attention in various brewing industry trade publications, but the piping system doesn’t have to be limited to the brewing industry, Anes said.

“It can be used for a water system for human consumption, transporting chemicals, heating applications,” he said. “Really, there’s not many things it can’t be used for compared to traditional piping.”

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