Everyone knows CAUSTIC->RINSE->CITRIC->RINSE for tanks. But what if you could just turn on a light switch instead? UV could make it that easy.
Given his background in analytical chemistry and toxicology, Alex Farren, founder and CEO of Bluemorph UV, thought the same thing. He was familiar with the disinfection power of UV light and saw the potential to make tank sanitation more efficient and less labour intensive. This year, Bluemorph UV’s tank sterilization system became commercially available and has been piloted in a number of wineries including Jackson Family Wines, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Constellation Brands, and Hall Wines.
Wine Business Monthly reported on the results of these trials in their October issue and it made me want to learn more. So I called up Alex Farren of Bluemorph UV and Julien Gervreau of Jackson Family Wines.
Alex claims that their UV system can reduce the amount of water used in tank cleaning and sanitation by up to 80%. This is accomplished by replacing a typical caustic/citric rinse cycle with a hot water wash followed by UV sanitation. In the real-world demonstrations, Dan Botelho of Jackson Family Wines told Wine Business Monthly that they reduced water use in tank cleaning by 70%, or about 950,000 litres per year.
UV Sanitation Effectiveness
Part of the pilot project with wineries was side-by-side comparisons of the Bluemorph UV approach (hot water + UV) with traditional approaches including: caustic/citric, caustic/PAA, steam, and ozone. In all cases, the performance of the UV system was comparable or better than the traditional alternative. Even with spray balls and other tank features, the tests indicate that there is enough reflection within the tank to sanitize directly-shaded areas.
Wine Business Monthly published some of the data, and Alex was generous enough to share results with Water & Wine so those that are interested can get in touch with me to see more.
The one factor that does impact performance is the presence of organic material or tartrates. Basically, the tank needs to be clear for the UV to do its job. In some cases this will mean that more washing is required than the recommended hot water rinse. I spoke with Julien Gervreau from Jackson Family Wines and while they are still washing all of their tanks with traditional methods, the Bluemorph UV system is used for sanitation in about 75% of their tanks.
Once you bring light bulbs into the equation, especially in an environment like a winery where things get banged around, you’re bound to have trouble. Or at least you’d think so. But none of the wineries had any issues during the trials and don’t feel there is a big risk involved.
It helps that the unit includes a water-proof case for electronics and a protective casing with rubber and springs that was designed by the Tom Beard Company, a well-respected and experienced producer of equipment for wineries. Confidence in their track record was actually a key factor for Jackson Family Wines’ decision to purchase the system.
Ease of use was also a big selling point for the wineries. After the hot water rinse, the UV system slides in the bottom tank door. Then all that needs to be done is pull a string to lock it in place, key in the tank number, and let it do its thing. The system is programmed to remember different tank sizes and characteristics so there’s no guess work as to cycle times.
The UV system currently available is designed for larger wineries and can handle tanks from 1,500 gallons up to 250,000 gallons. This unit costs US$49,500, but Bluemorph UV is developing a smaller unit for tanks less than 6,000 gallons and is planning to launch a unit for barrels next year.
In terms of payback, in addition to the water savings, Gervreau figures Jackson Family Wines reduced tank cleaning labour requirements by about 60% and electricity by 50%. Factoring in maintenance and the occasional broken bulb they are looking at a 3.5 year payback.
Do you have any questions about the Bluemorph UV system? Use the comments below to continue the discussion.