Taking a fresh look at its fermentation processes, Cargill finds a way to increase alcohol manufacturing and reduce environmental impact.
The next time consumers share a gin and tonic, sidecar or dry martini with friends, they should be sure to raise their glasses and make a toast to sustainable alcohol.
In 2014, Cargill’s potable ethanol plant in Manchester, United Kingdom, announced it had achieved a 23% increase in alcohol concentration through an innovative fermentation process. The breakthrough enabled the plant to produce more alcohol from equal resources, significantly reducing environmental impact per liter.
The new approach came from a team of Cargill chemical engineers, plant operations specialists, and research and development scientists. The engineers experimented with new combinations and concentrations of enzymes and yeasts that convert sugar into alcohol. Since the alcohol that the Manchester plant produces goes into many of the continent’s top vodka, gin, liqueur and cream liquor brands, as well as a variety of pharmaceutical and personal care products, it was crucial that the alcohol maintain its original taste and odor. To ensure this, Cargill created an international testing panel of more than 30 “noses,” or experts, who regularly tested the product for consistency.
After identifying the winning blend, Cargill focused on making the necessary changes to production. The company brought in plant operations experts to streamline processes and, ultimately, reduce emissions and the amount of energy consumed per unit of alcohol.
While the methods have already been adopted by other Cargill plants across Europe, the company continues to search for innovative ways to further reduce the environmental footprint of its fermentation process.