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Burning Iron for Fuel Sounds Crazy – It’s Also the Future

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The world is filled with so many new discoveries that amaze us all. A Dutch brewery in Netherland that is more than 300 years old has started heating beer using sustainable iron combustion. 

The furnace uses burnt iron recharged for reuse, with the help of electrolysis generated from clean energy sources. Royal Swinkels Family Brewers is working together with the Eindhoven University and Metal Power, a technology think tank. 

cycle of renewable iron powers the furnace. Apparently, the iron plays the role of a clean battery for the combustion processes. It charges up through electrolysis and discharges flames and heat.

The combustion of the iron powder is visible through the glass in the combustion tube. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

Iron powder can be recycled, and if combusted with hot gases to drive an engine or turbine, you end up with rust powder. It can be transformed into iron powder again by using hydrogen generated from electricity surpluses of sustainable sources.

During this process, oxygen is extracted from rust particles. This has never been explored before because fossil fuels dominate the energy market. Since the number of iron suppliers worldwide is low, production will need to increase according to the wider energy usage. 

Brewery Bavaria is the first business to use this cyclical iron-burning furnace.

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This energy source is sustainable because the iron cycle burning method is way cleaner and produces recyclable results. A cyclical iron-burning furnace is suitable for industries that use high heat and electricity. 

Royal Swinkels Family Brewers, from Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands, is a family business for seven generations. They are active in the beer, soft drink, and malt sector. The head office is in Lieshout, and there are subsidiaries in twelve countries.

They are 100% independent, which allows them to do things differently. You can notice and taste their characteristics. RSFB malt their own barley and have their own mineral water source. That helps them to guarantee the continuous quality of their products, stemming from their passion.

The iron powder is poured into the iron fuel installation at brewery Bavaria in Lieshout. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

Swinkels Family Brewers consciously opt for growth, both autonomously and through new business and acquisitions, which allows them to invest in their people, innovations, markets, safety, and environment. They contribute to a liveable environment. 

After completing an energy-saving program, Royal Swinkels Family Brewers makes the plant in Lieshout more sustainable, which involves installing a hot water buffer. The family brewer achieves more than 15% of energy savings, equivalent to 4 million m3 natural gas per year, equivalent to more than 2000 households’ gas consumption.

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Central to the new system is a large tank with hot water. This tank is fed with residual heat from the brewery and malting plant and passes this heat on to the processes needed to brew beer. In this way, the residual heat is no longer lost but reused.

Other production locations also have energy-saving programs, such as the malting plant in the Eemshaven, where they’re also working on optimizing the use of residual heat.

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