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El Dorado rum to become more sustainable with polymer initiative

Guyanese company Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) is working with separate companies out of Ohio and France to help the El Dorado rum brand become more sustainable.

Speaking to the drinks business at a private dinner event hosted at The Groucho Club in London yesterday, Demerara Distillers master distiller Shaun Caleb said: “We wanted to harness most of our waste, to get energy. How are we going to do that? We designed the process to treat the wastewater, to produce biogas out of it, and then convert our boiler equipment to use that biogas. We have retrofitted the boiler equipment to utilise biogas to generate steam to drive the distillery. Once we were able to do that, we were able to cut our fossil fuel dependents by two thirds.”

Caleb admitted: “Right now we’re extending the process to move from two thirds to 85% fuel replacement…a company from Ohio, United States, and another from France to test the different polymers to see if we can get the best combination. Ultimately, we hope by next year, to be able to build the very first secondary polymer wastewater treatment plant anywhere in the world. The company is a small start up that does very cutting and edge research.”

Describing how the sustainability initiatives began, Caleb explained: “I actually met them through the West Indies Rum Association. We were interested, because at the time, this was not a proven technology and it was literally a trial field. As a matter of fact, we probably started out as a gesture of working with them to help them improve what they did. But it got to a point where it was obviously beneficial for us too. So we said: ‘It seems like we have something going on here. How about we collaborate now?’”

He highlighted how the process was an intricate one, but involved separating molasses solids from water and then treating it. Polymers essentially separate solids from liquids through a process called coagulation and flocculation and then the polymers’ ability to flocculate solids becomes central to water treatment.

Caleb told db: “Basically, in the waste water, because of the molasses origin, there are quite a bit of suspended solids, but also dissolved solids. But not all of it gets targeted well, which means that over time, those solids begin to accumulate. The theory is if we can develop a polymer that can coagulate out the solids, then we can filter it out and leave the less-laden liquid to then go for treatment. It’s been very effective. Once we separate out those solids there are a couple of options: It can be fuel, so we’re probably looking at using that either for fertilisers, or as animal feed.”

Caleb also added that DDL has already also begun to explore other avenues for making the business more sustainable and versatile for the future. One such method has involved its recent venture to develop a dairy farm to reduce Guyana’s reliance on imports and revitalise its agriculture sector while also boosting its range of drinks while backing renewable energy sources. The dairy cows on the farm would also be the recipients of the animal feed created from the distillery water.

Caleb explained: “The company has just partnered with another international company to set up a dairy farm. We can now also not just make rum, but also make juices, make milk to make other beverages and we are harnessing our CO2-produced and our water and so on.”

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