In the malt value chain, the environmental impact of water needs to be taken into consideration at three points: During the growing of the barley that is the raw material of malt; during the transformation of the barley grains into malt in the malting plant; and finally at the end of the process, when the wastewater is treated. Malteurop works to minimise its environmental impact on water at each of these three phases by taking into consideration the diversity of the hydric and geoclimatic contexts of its locations around the world.

Water and barley growing

In growing barley, the various soil types and their hydric state need to be taken into account, along with climate and the needs of the plant.

In its sourcing policy, Malteurop systematically gives precedence to non-irrigated cereal grains. 95% of the barley processed by Malteurop is from non-irrigated fields.

Malteurop develops or selects new varieties of malting barley that are genetically adapted to climatic conditions and their evolution in each growing zone. In Spain and Portugal - a region exposed to increasing drought -, for example, the goal is to sow very early varieties of barley, which shortens the growth cycle and thus exposure to drought. In Russia, Ukraine, the northern USA and Canada, where the climate is continental, the plant must be capable of resisting a broad range of pluviometric conditions and temperature variations.

Saving water during the malting process

In the industrial process, large quantities of water are necessary during the steeping and germination phases to transform the cereal grains into malt. During steeping the grain is immersed or sprayed. During germination, the grain is kept in a moist atmosphere.

Malteurop, whose water consumption is currently 8.3 million cu. m. of water per year, optimises process management by establishing measurement regimes for optimising water volumes and pathways in its malting plants. Steep regimes are modelled in order to carefully adjust the quantities of water needed for humidifying the malt and saturating the air in each malting plant.

During steeping, barley is mixed with water in tanks. Malteurop uses steeping tanks designed and patented by the group that substantially reduce water consumption and loss compared to traditional tanks.

To optimise the quantity of water used during the germination phase, Malteurop has developed a sprayer that maintains the constant humidity necessary for germination. This new system avoids condensation and so reduces water losses. It is expected to be in use soon in all the Malteurop group’s malting plants.

Treating wastewater

To restore clean water at the end of the process, all wastewater is processed in water treatment plants in compliance with legislation on water emissions to significantly reduce effluents. The group’s overall direct or indirect capacity for water treatment is 6.7 million cu. m. No untreated water is released into the environment.

The most recent wastewater treatment units installed or under construction in the Malteurop group - in China, Spain and the USA - operate on the principle of biological treatment with alternating aerobic and anoxic phases, to refine the bacterial flora necessary for treating wastewater. Anticipating stricter standards, Malteurop is broadening the spectrum of effectiveness of the biological treatment, covering all types of bacteria.

Beyond the standards currently in force, Malteurop is seeking to increase the quality level of effluent water and in several malting plants is experimenting with a new measuring system which controls the turbidity of the water – its degree of opacity – and, if needed – if the threshold for suspended materials is exceeded –, automatically redirects the water to additional treatment or filtering.

To ensure homogeneous overall quality policy for effluents at group level, Malteurop centralises monitoring of water analysis reports from all its subsidiaries. In this monitoring, the strict French standards regarding the quality level of wastewater effluents serve as the benchmark for the Malteurop group's policy.

Finally, when legislation in the different countries where Malteurop is located allows it, treatment-plant sludge is recycled. Since the sludge is low in energy content, burning it is of little advantage; it is better used in agriculture for improving the soil.