With today's supply chain issues and shortages of Carbon Dioxide, we see the gas industry reacting by finding alternative ways to source and supply this product. One market that is struggling to keep up with demand is the restaurant, brewery, and bar industry. It is a saddening thought that one could not enjoy an ice-cold American brand soda or beer on a nice hot summer day because it is missing the most important ingredient..CO2! This wouldn't be concerning in an everyday world, but unfortunately, the last few years have proven not to be normal.
Like many resources in the modern age, the common solution when something is less abundant or unobtainable is to use less or find an alternative. In soda dispensing, there isn't much you can do to find an alternative to make as an ingredient. However, some soda brands have experimented with substituting CO2 with Nitrogen. Although it gives a completely different experience, it is far from a comparable replacement. In beer dispensing, hundreds, maybe thousands of breweries have a product that they make that uses less CO2(up to 75%), which is blended with Nitrogen. However, most styles will require the original recipe that calls for a specific volume of CO2 in the solution.
This leaves us with the last known solution...USE LESS!! In most cases, in a restaurant soda system, CO2 is not only an ingredient that is infused into water to create soda water. It also operates the pumps that drive the syrup down the line for soda production in a way that seems like a waste of gas that could be driven by something else. Nitrogen is abundant but can be costly and needs to be delivered in an HP cylinder. N2 Harvesters, separators, or generators will be expensive and will not have the capacity to supply ample gas for an economical price to keep up with demand.
We have been toying with the idea of food-grade air and developed a Food Grade Air Treatment System. What is food grade air, you say? Why it's the air that derives from an air compressor and is then treated to comply with specific standards. Mainly ISO 8573-1:2010. This standard is used to identify air quality through three primary contaminants: particulates, moisture, and residual oil. Not to say that this is the first time that this idea has ever been brought to light. It has been done repeatedly and ultimately did not have great results.
Theories on why this didn't work and some known facts would be the following. Any compressed air system needs maintenance. If these maintenance schedules are neglected, then system failure is inevitable. The quality of the air compressor was not designed for beverage use. What kind of filtration did these systems have? I have seen a basic industrial air compressor designed to operate tools with a reservoir tank that needed to be drained of condensate, which never happened. Downstream particulates, oil, and moisture will destroy any pump over time! In lieu of all of the above mentioned, restaurants can be messy.
Now the BIG question. How much CO2 would a food-grade air compressor displace? We believe it can reduce CO2 usage by 40% based on some digging. After making several inquiries to soda distributors across this great nation of ours, it was determined that the average use is 5 lbs of CO2 to dispense a box of syrup. When we looked at a drink volume guide, we saw that only .0112 LB of CO2 in 9.6 oz of water is in 16 oz. soft drink. Which, on an ingredient level, equates to 3 lbs of CO2 needed to dispense a box of syrup. I believe that the 5 lbs are absolutely correct when considering the use to drive all the pumps at a busy restaurant. That being said, reducing 2 lbs of Co2 per box of syrup is a considerable saving when you look at the big picture. I am sure we can all do the math, but what was once a restaurant using 250 lbs of CO2 in a month and now only needs 150 lbs per month is an additional 300 boxes of syrup that they can dispense. This example applies to the average establishment. Imagine if we were to go bigger to some of these big global franchises…eh hem, which in some regions use CO2 for condiment dispensing, pneumatic door operation, liquid syrup transfer, etc, etc. That in itself, from a cost standpoint, would be a no-brainer!
Unfortunately, it has already been done and not so successful. Hence, my example above is why it was not a viable option. We have designed this system to cool air and remove oil, moisture, and particulates from the air stream. This produces clean, dry air ready for any point of use that is mechanical. We also implemented an automatic switch-over mechanism. If maintenance was never executed and the system ultimately failed, the system would automatically go back to CO2 as the driving media to power all the pumps and points of use. We did this In effort to eliminate service interruptions. If needed, we can monitor this activity and alert by email any type of failure mode or just a simple maintenance reminder! It would be as easy as adding this to our Milcarb mobile portal. https://www.milcarb.com/mobile milcarb
Before this product's initial development, we were chasing a theory that revolved around a different angle. That angle was the government's green initiative in handing out carbon credits to companies that reduce their CO2 usage by 1 metric ton. After diving into a few scenarios, a few companies could benefit from this on a global stage. Still, most of the restaurant world would only see the benefit in the amount of Soda yield per pound of CO2.
Some stats below:
1 - Metric Ton = 2,207 Lbs.
1- Carbon Credit = $3.5 - $20 per metric ton
If there were 36,699 McDowell ;) Restaurants worldwide. The organization could apply for the Carbon Credit program, potentially earning 3.3 carbon credits per store per year. 3.3 * 36,699 = 12
1,106 carbon credits which could have a value range of $423 873.00 - $2,422,120.00
Estimating that McDowells used 750 lbs of CO2 per month and reduced it by 40% using the Milcarb system