Coast river business journal. (Astoria, OR) 2006-current, March 10, 2021, Page 8, Image 8

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    8 • March 2021
Coast River Business Journal
Buoy Beer captures carbon
Local brewer adopts climate-friendly process
Story & Photo by Edward Stratton
Coast River Business Journal
Carbon dioxide, the gas that gives beer its fizz,
is a precious commodity breweries spend large
sums to buy, despite producing tons of it during
When the coronavirus pandemic temporarily
closed ethanol refineries and doubled the price
per pound of the gas, Buoy Beer Co. joined a
small but growing number of breweries captur-
ing and recycling their carbon dioxide, increasing
sustainability and cutting costs.
CiCi, a fridge-sized machine shorthand for
carbon capture, cost Buoy Beer around $100,000
to install this summer. Rather than releasing it
into the atmosphere, brewers pipe carbon dioxide
from fermentation tanks to CiCi, which scrubs
the gas clean and turns it into liquid for more effi-
cient storage. A vaporizer turns the liquid back
into gas that can be used for carbonating and can-
ning beer.
Kevin Shaw, director of brewery operations
at Buoy Beer, remembers hearing about carbon
capture more than 20 years ago, when Alaskan
Brewing Co. in Juneau became one of the first in
the U.S. to install a system for reusing the gas.
The far-flung brewery faces higher costs to ship
carbon dioxide from Seattle, making capture and
reuse all the more financially appealing.
“It was always something that really inter-
ested me,” Shaw said. “It seemed to make perfect
sense, when you’re off-gassing this product, and
it’s something that we purchase. If you’re able to
reuse that, that would be obviously ideal.”
In 2016, Amy George founded a benefit corpo-
ration named Earthly Labs with a goal to remove
1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere, equal to the capture of about 26 bil-
lion trees. The company sought to scale down
large, costly carbon capture machines for craft
breweries and other small businesses.
“My vision was to create technology that
allowed a small business owner, and some-
day homeowners, to capture and reuse CO2 and
keep it out of the atmosphere,” George said. “I
started on the craft beer market solution in 2017
and launched it officially after prototyping it with
brewers here in Austin, Texas.”
By the end of May, George estimates about
four dozen breweries in the U.S. will have
Earthly Labs’ carbon capture technology. Buoy
Beer, the first in Oregon to use Earthly Labs’
units, was set to install the technology in early
2020 before coronavirus put most capital projects
on hold. Then the skyrocketing price of carbon
dioxide amid the pandemic gave them the finan-
Michael Baron, lead brewer at Buoy Beer Co., said an 80-barrel batch of India pale ale can yield around 130 pounds of carbon dioxide gas,
which the brewery captures and reuses.
cial incentive to move quicker and cut the amount
of imported gas.
“Most of our customers expect to see a pay-
back in two to three years,” George said. “In
some cases, it’s much faster. Again, with the ris-
ing prices (of carbon dioxide), we’ve seen that go
to a year. We’ve seen prices go up 30% to 300%.”
Michael Baron, the lead brewer at Buoy Beer,
said the brewery can collect about 150 pounds of
carbon dioxide from an 80-barrel batch of Buoy
India pale ale.
“The purification process strips out all of the
volatile compounds,” Baron said, touting the
scrubbed gas as cleaner than what the brewery
imports from the byproduct of ethanol production.
Kevin Shaw
Buoy Beer
CiCi is designed to service breweries produc-
ing up to 20,000 barrels a year. Shaw expects
the technology to become all the more prevalent
when Buoy Beer expands its brewery into the
former Video Horizons building on Astor Street
this summer, dramatically increasing its capac-
ity in the coming years. CiCi will never provide
all the brewery’s carbon dioxide, Shaw said, but
the machine will help the brewery become more
self-sufficient when supply for carbon dioxide
“We’re basically dead in the water without
CO2,” he said. “We basically can’t operate as a