Brewery Keg Cleaning

Brewery Keg Cleaning

Cat Pumps high pressure pumps have been widely used for many years for removing labels from beer kegs. This article was recently published in Brewer & Distiller magazine and brings up-to-date news from the brewery located only a few miles from our UK warehouse. Amongst other advantages, this application demonstrates the customer satisfaction derived from the long-term durability of our pumps in critical process applications.

Removing identification labels from beer kegs is a task that all breweries have to address and without the proper equipment it can prove to be a tiresome process. At the Molson Coors brewery in the Hampshire market town of Alton, the use of high pressure positive displacement plunger pumps on the automated keg cleaning lines is proving highly effective for removing labels. BRC regulations dictate that because the lager is a food, every stage of the brewing process has to be recorded and labelled for accountability reasons.

All returned kegs carry bar-code labels which need to be removed before the kegs can be reused and in order to optimise production, Molson Coors operate two automated keg cleaning lines able to clean the internal and external surfaces of 75,000 kegs a week. Removing the labels is the first stage of the overall cleaning process. When originally installed, the cleaning line used centrifugal pumps to provide water for removing the labels, but this was not wholly satisfactory. At a later date the brewery switched to triplex positive displacement (PD) plunger pumps, with each line being equipped with two Cat Pumps model 650 PD pumps. Today, each of the keg cleaning lines has been upgraded to a single larger Cat Pumps Model 3517 pump.

"What we have done here in the Alton brewery is to standardise on the Cat Pumps Model 3517 for all the keg cleaning lines," says Keith Smith. "It makes good sense from the point of maintenance and we have ready access to the standard service kits and any spare parts, not that we have ever needed any. If you look after them, they are really good pumps and we never have any problems. They are 'fit for purpose' and far more efficient than centrifugal pumps."

The labels are removed using cold water at a temperature below 20ºC pumped at a pressure of 200 bar through a rotating head inside the cleaning chamber. The first of the Model 3517 Cat Pumps was installed almost 4 years ago and this together with two subsequent pumps has performed without any problems. The pumps are run 24 hours a day and the only time that they are stopped is for a period of four hours each week when the inverter controlled keg cleaning plant is shutdown. The pumps have their filters checked every 14 days and the oil changed every three months. The feed pressure into the Cat Pumps from the water treatment pumps is maintained at 30 psi, ensuring that there is a constant feed into the pumps so they are never starved of water and allowed to dry run.

"Before the installation of the Model 3517 pumps, each cleaning line used two smaller triplex plunger pumps with a rotating head run off a cylinder for labels removal," continues Keith Smith. "The heads swivelled backwards and forwards, but it wasn't particularly effective particularly as we had to use hot water to remove the labels. As the labels are now fixed to the kegs with water-permeable glue, we no longer use hot water and steam. Cold water pumped at 1,500 psi through a rotating head does the job very effectively and more economically."

The brewery has a planned maintenance schedule which sees the Cat Pumps being serviced every nine months. "The Cat Pump is easy to service; all we have to do is take the head off the front end, strip it down, install the new service kit, replace the head, top up with crankcase oil and away you go" concludes Keith.


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