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Tapping biogas and achieving compliance for Heineken

In 2008, Heineken, one of the world’s largest brewers, regularly exceeded the authorised effluent discharge standards at one of its UK plants for ammonia. Drawing on our dual expertise in water cycle management and organic waste treatment, our team devised a solution that coupled effluent reduction with organic waste recycling. This allowed Heineken to preserve the age-old quality of its beer while enhancing its economic competitiveness and environmental credentials.

The mission

Ensure environmental compliance and identify opportunities to improve

The world’s number-three brewer acquired John Smith's, one of the largest breweries in the UK, in 2008. Located in Tadcaster, Yorkshire, the 100-year old plant frequently exceeded the ammonia discharge levels permitted by the UK Environment Agency.


Simultaneously satisfying environmental requirements while sustaining competitiveness was a major challenge for Heineken. Our primary objective was to lower the ammonia content in discharged water so as to achieve compliance, while also devising ways to improve overall efficiency and environmental performance.

Our solution

Optimising performance and reducing environmental impact

Heineken entrusted SUEZ with the operation and maintenance of the John Smith's brewery’s effluent treatment plant.


Our specialists in water cycle management and organic waste treatment developed a solution to raise its performance. This was based on two approaches: improving effluent quality and recycling organic waste.

Optimise operating processes

SUEZ worked closely with Heineken to analyse and optimise the operating processes used in the effluent treatment plant. We developed an innovative solution:


  • Reducing the nitrogen particles producing ammonia, at the inlet to the plant.
  • Adding an anaerobic digestion tank to lower the ammonia content.

Reduce energy consumption

SUEZ also proposed two technologies to enable energy production:


  • An organic waste treatment channel with biogas recovery through methanisation.
  • Using this biogas to generate steam and electricity as power for the production process.
The results

SUEZ helped Heineken improve both its environmental and economic performance. Our solution achieved compliance while significantly reducing energy consumption.


The levels of ammonia in the effluent were rapidly brought under control and no further irregularities were detected.

A 100-year-old brewery also became a far more efficient production plant capable of generating its own power. John Smith's virtuous cycle, enabling it to manage energy and raw materials more sustainable.


Our response to the global brewer’s complex environmental challenge was applauded by the Environment Agency as a solution "which nobody else had achieved before".

3500000
hL
volume of alcoholic beverages produced by John Smith's every year
0
exceedances of ammonia discharge limits
90
%
of irregularities detected in 2008 had been due to ammonia production
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