Two of Colorado’s most high-profile industries – cannabis and beer – recently joined forces under a state-supported pilot project aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s cheaper – about a 10th of the cost – for cannabis businesses to buy carbon dioxide (CO2) from craft beer companies rather than a commercial CO2 distributor that charges more per pound and requires them to lease its equipment.
Using CO2 recaptured at a brewery also demonstrates social responsibility by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With equipment it purchased from Austin, Texas-based Earthly Labs, Colorado craft brewery Denver Beer Co. is recapturing CO2 it emits during the brewing process and selling it to Denver dispensary chain The Clinic, a vertically integrated cannabis company, to use in its cultivation process.
“We’re creating a CO2 exchange market,” said Kaitlin Urso, environmental protection specialist for the small-business assistance program at the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division.
“Instead of treating CO2 as a waste, this is a new way for both businesses to think about it as a commodity.”
CO2 is among the most dangerous and common greenhouse gases, and many environmental experts point to its buildup as the primary cause of global climate change.
With Earthly Labs’ technology, Denver Beer can capture more than 100,000 pounds of CO2 a year.
The legal marijuana industry uses carbon dioxide to grow cannabis in a condensed time span and increase yields.
Under the pilot program, Denver Beer will deliver 500 pounds of CO2 a week to the Clinic for 16 weeks – the life cycle of a marijuana crop.
That will give The Clinic the opportunity to evaluate the program’s effectiveness based on its plants’ growth, strength, color and yields.
“We want data from clone to harvest,” said Brian Cusworth, The Clinic’s director of operations. “In about eight weeks we’ll have a better understanding as to what the yields will look like.”
Purchasing the CO2 from Denver Beer Co. is more cost-effective than buying it from a commercial facility, which requires cannabis companies to rent equipment from them.
With Earthly Labs, The Clinic can purchase its own equipment and vessels – known as dewars – and the cost of the CO2 is less than if the company purchased it from a commercial facility.
The Clinic purchased two dewars for the pilot program at a cost of $7,000 each. If all goes well, the company will purchase more of the vessels.
The Clinic is using about 7,000 pounds of CO2 a month in the 2,400-square-foot cultivation facility it’s established for the pilot program.
“We have been using CO2 for several years and have seen the benefits,” said Shannon Daily, director of marketing for The Clinic.
“The CO2 we’ll be getting from Denver Beer Co. is more pure. We’re just looking to see how this recaptured CO2 will benefit our overall production.”
CO2 fuels photosynthesis and stimulates plant growth.
And because The Clinic is just eight miles from Denver Beer Co., the CO2 recapture cuts the business’ carbon footprint even more because trucking is reduced.
“One of the goals is to reduce total emissions caused by the fleet of CO2 delivery,” said Amy George, CEO of Earthly Labs. “Denver is a great example of a metro (area) that has hundreds of growers and brewers in close proximity, so it’s a dream market for this pilot for that reason.”
Margaret Jackson can be reached at [email protected]