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Big Storm Brewing utilizing new technology to reduce carbon footprint

Mark Parker

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Big Storm Brewing Co. is the first distiller and brewer in Florida to utilize innovative technology to reuse its carbon dioxide emissions. Photos provided.

With the help of some innovative technology, Clearwater’s Big Storm Brewing Co. is becoming more environmentally friendly while providing a better product.

On Monday, Big Storm announced a partnership with Austin-based Earthly Labs to capture and reuse its carbon emissions through the brewing and distilling process. The carbon capture technology is energy efficient and allows for the purification and reuse of carbon dioxide (CO2) from small-scale sources. The patent-pending hardware is called CiCi, and Big Storm is the first Florida distiller and brewer to utilize the system.

L.J. Govoni, co-owner of Big Storm, said it is always nice to take something typically considered waste – and bad for the environment – and repurpose it into something useful.

“Like everybody, we’re trying to become as renewable as possible,” said Govoni. “Unfortunately, a lot of times, it just doesn’t make dollars and sense to do so. This was kind of that rare intersection we’ve found where doing something good as a neighbor made good business sense.”

Govoni explained that as starches and sugar ferment into alcohol, they create CO2 as a byproduct. While the gas would typically escape, CiCi allows the brewer to capture it, purify it and use it again to carbonate and package beer. The technology captures CO2 off beer tanks one week, and distilling tanks the next.

The system reportedly captures as much carbon dioxide as over 1,500 trees annually.

Govoni said the two CiCi systems are a six-figure investment for Big Storm, although the company saves money by eliminating the need to purchase externally generated CO2 or rent storage tanks. He called it a rare opportunity to cut expenses while also increasing inventory.

“You know, those gases actually are not cheap,” said Govoni. “They dissipate every day that you put them in the tank, and … we’re kind of always topping off that tank.”

Once both systems are operational, Big Storm expects to capture and reuse nearly all of its CO2.

Installation of the first system, about the size of a double-door refrigerator, began at Big Storm’s Clearwater location last month. Once the second system arrives, Govoni expects to capture and reuse nearly 100% of all CO2 the brewer produces. He said there could be times when there is a disconnect in the brewing and packing schedules, especially at first, but the ultimate goal is not relying on outside sources for the gas.

As for changes in taste, Govoni believes the most discerning customers are in for a pleasant surprise. He said the science behind the system tells him it will produce a more purified product.

“We’re literally taking CO2 produced by beer production, putting that into a tank, and using it to carbonate more beer,” he explained. “I think it’s going to be a better product.”

Govoni said the company has longed for such technology and called it a low-hanging fruit at the intersection between good for business and good for the environment. He said similar systems have always been cost prohibitive for Big Storm’s relatively small scale.

While not technically business partners, Govoni said Big Storm is sharing all the data it collects with Early Labs in the spirit of partnership.

“Big Storm’s willingness to provide a live lab to innovate is priceless – helping us to accelerate market-driven climate tech innovation to meet the climate challenge,” said Earthly Labs CEO Amy George in a statement.

Big Storm always hopes to be a good neighbor in the community, according to Govoni. He said the company realizes anything that negatively impacts the region’s environment also impacts the surrounding businesses and employees.

Big Storm is looking into installing a system at its sister brewery in Punta Gorda. As the technology improves and the rate of return increases, Govoni hopes the systems become standard equipment for brewers.

“When people open up,” he said, “it’s ‘here’s your beer tanks, here’s your brewhouse, here’s your canning line, here’s your chiller, here’s your boiler and here’s your CO2 recapture.'”

 

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