Beer brewer, weed grower help environment

CO2 capture technology reduces overall releases of greenhouse gases

Christy Steadman
csteadman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/26/20

When a craft brewer has carbon dioxide and a marijuana grower needs carbon dioxide, it’s a classic Colorado story with an environmental benefit. Three small businesses have teamed up to reduce …

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Beer brewer, weed grower help environment

CO2 capture technology reduces overall releases of greenhouse gases

Posted

When a craft brewer has carbon dioxide and a marijuana grower needs carbon dioxide, it’s a classic Colorado story with an environmental benefit.

Three small businesses have teamed up to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through a pilot program facilitated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“This is a classic win-win-win scenario,” said Kaitlin Urso, environmental protection specialist with the CDPHE. “We’re connecting companies that have excess carbon dioxide with companies that need it, and in the process, we’re reusing CO2 that would otherwise be released directly into the environment.”

The small businesses involved are Denver Beer Co., a Denver-based craft brewery; The Clinic, a marijuana dispensary chain located in and around Denver; and Earthly Labs, a Texas-based company that developed a CO2 capture technology specifically for small businesses.

How it works is Denver Beer Co. uses Earthly Labs’ specialized equipment, a plug-n-play machine called CiCi, to capture carbon dioxide from the brewery’s fermentation tanks. Once captured, the gas goes through a three-step purifying process and is eventually converted to liquid. It is then transported in special, certified tanks to The Clinic’s cannabis growing facility. There, the tank is hooked up to the growers’ system and the CO2 is released into the grow room, stimulating plant growth during cultivation.

The pilot program is not funded by the state, Urso said. She added the three businesses chose to partner and invest in the program. The CDPHE’s role was connecting the three partners to one another, Urso said.

“It’s inspiring to see small businesses taking an investment in solutions … to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Urso said.

Earthly Labs was founded in 2016 with the purpose of making carbon dioxide capture technology affordable to small businesses, said Amy George, founder and CEO. George has a background in the large industrial sector and realized there is a supply-and-demand need for CO2 among small business as well, particlarly craft breweries, George said.

“We are thrilled to help these industry pioneers reduce costs, drive innovation and improve the quality of life in Colorado,” George said of the partnership between Denver Beer Co. and The Clinic.

Earthly Labs’ overall goal, George added, is to avoid 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions across the nation by 2030.

“This is a real opportunity to keep (a significant amount of) CO2 out of the atmosphere,” George said.

Denver Beer Co. operates a brewery and taproom in Denver’s Highland neighborhood and another in Olde Town Arvada, and will be opening a third brewery and taproom at 2425 S. Downing St., which is on the border of the Rosedale and University neighborhoods, this summer.

Co-owners Patrick Crawford and Charlie Berger also have a Denver Beer Co. production and canning facility called Canworks in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood at 4455 Jason St.

The fermentation stage of the beer-brewing process naturally produces carbon dioxide, and Berger estimates that Denver Beer Co. can capture about 150,000 pounds of CO2 per year with Earthly Labs’ technology.

All of the CO2 that is not sent to the cannabis industry will be reused by the brewery, Berger said.

“Something near-and-dear to our hearts as Coloradans is taking care of our environment,” Berger said. For Denver Beer Co., the pilot program is a way to give back to their communities, he said. “Capturing and reusing CO2 is an extension of our efforts to be as sustainable as possible.”

Berger added that Denver Beer Co.’s other sustainability efforts include using 98% locally-grown malted barley and powering Canworks by solar.

The Clinic’s director of operations Brian Cusworth said CO2 is required for plant growth, so another way the pilot program partnership will contribute to reducing The Clinic’s carbon footprint is by eliminating the need to purchase carbon dioxide from power plants and shipping it across the state.

Canworks, where the CO2 will be captured, is only about seven or eight miles away from The Clinic’s cultivation center where the CO2 will be delivered.

The Clinic has four marijuana retail locations across the metro area — Denver’s University Hills, South Park Hill and West Highland neighborhoods; and one location in Wheat Ridge — two Denver-based cultivation centers and a lab.

“We’ve always put innovation as a top priority of ours, right alongside sustainability,” Cusworth said.

Cusworth added he hopes the pilot program will bring awareness to Earthly Labs’ technology for small businesses, and that an industry partnership is an option for any brewery and any legal indoor marijuana cultivation business.

“That’s what it’s really all about,” Cusworth said, “taking larger steps toward responsibility and fighting climate change in the communities that support us.”

The first batch of CO2 was captured from Denver Beer Co. on Jan. 20 and distributed to The Clinic in early February. Testing for quality and various environmentals, specific to the pilot program but taking place concurrently with standard state-mandated testing, will take place for 16 weeks, which is the life cycle of a marijuana plant, Cusworth said.

Both Cusworth and Berger said a partnership between a craft brewery and a marijuana cultivation business, combined with using a small company’s technology, to result in reducing carbon emissions makes sense especially in Colorado. They pointed to the state’s thriving craft brewery culture and the fact that the rest of the nation is looking at Colorado as the pioneers of the legal marijuana industry. This is in addition to Coloradans’ general appreciation for the outdoors, Cusworth and Berger said.

While Earthly Labs’ technology is being used in a small number of craft breweries across the nation, Colorado’s pilot program is the first of its kind to form a partnership between a brewery and cannabis cultivation to help reduce both industries’ carbon footprint.

“This program is a little ahead of its time,” Urso said. She added that assuming all works as it is predicted to, her hope is for the program to expand. “We could really move the needle in helping the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

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