As a collective of wineries advocating for climate action, one of our top priorities is to eliminate fossil fuel use.
One of the biggest culprits for wine producers? Fuel and energy use.
That’s where biogas comes in. It's a solution that, alongside other technologies and infrastructure, has been an important step in the transition away from fossil fuels for IWCA member wineries VSPT Wine Group (Chile) and Okanagan Crush Pad (Canada).
A Pioneering Biogas Plant at VSPT Wine Group, Chile
After seven years of planning and construction, VSPT Wine Group opened the world’s first biogas plant utilizing only organic harvest waste in 2016. Located at the company’s Viña San Pedro site in Molina, Chile, the biogas plant generates energy equivalent to 4,000 households’ average monthly energy consumption.
Organic vineyard waste that the Viña San Pedro winery collects through the harvest process is fed into the plant’s biodigester with water (in 2023, 12,000 tons of organic harvest waste was sent to the biodigester!). When heated, this organic matter produces methane, which is then processed and converted into electrical and thermal energy. Part of the leftover physical matter is fed back into the biodigester, and the rest is used in the vineyard as natural fertilizer.
“It’s been an incredible circular process,” shares VSPT Wine Group’s Carolina Gotuzzo Bickell, Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability. “We are able to use the electrical and thermal energy generated by the plant to run parts of our winemaking operations, which reduces our consumption of fossil fuels. And the best part is, we do this by valorizing vineyard ‘waste,’ an important part of our strategy to achieve 100% productive reuse of our waste.”
Any energy not consumed by Viña San Pedro — for example, to heat water for its boilers — feeds directly into Chile’s National Energy System.
The Transformative Shift to Renewable Natural Gas at Okanagan Crush Pad, Canada
Of course, not every wine company can build its own biogas plant. VSPT Wine Group is one of Chile’s largest wine producers, operating at a scale far exceeding the majority of the world’s wine producers. That doesn’t mean that biogas is off the table for smaller wineries.
Just ask Okanagan Crush Pad, IWCA’s first Canadian member winery. In their case, the switch away from fossil fuels in their energy source was as pretty much as easy as that — the flip of a switch.
“Last year, we transitioned from conventional natural gas to 100% Renewable Natural Gas at our Haywire Winery and Garnet Valley Ranch Winery properties,” shares Okanagan Crush Pad’s General Manager Craig Pingle. “It was an option offered by our energy provider, Fortis BC. The change didn’t require any new infrastructure on our part; all it took was changing our preferences on the Fortis BC platform, and the change took effect in our next billing cycle.”
Fortis BC works with suppliers (landfills, wastewater treatment plants, farms, and others) to capture and purify biogas from organic waste into Renewable Natural Gas. Despite similarities in naming, Renewable Natural Gas and conventional natural gas are completely different products (Renewable Natural Gas is not a fossil fuel).
The impact of Okanagan Crush Pad’s simple switch to Renewable Natural Gas is huge. It will reduce the company’s emissions by 40-50 tons of CO2 per year — a significant dent in the winery’s overall carbon footprint.
“We’re surrounded by over 300 wineries just right here in our Okanagan Valley, and there are countless other wineries across the world whose energy providers also offer Renewable Natural Gas,” Craig Pingle notes. “When we have an accessible option to end our reliance on fossil fuels, there’s no excuse not to take it.”