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HomeNewsSMC unveils its biggest sustainability project yet, to cut water use by 50% across its businesses

SMC unveils its biggest sustainability project yet, to cut water use by 50% across its businesses

March 22, 2017

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) announced that the company would reduce operational water use by 50% across its businesses, employing measures that include water recycling, conservation, and rainwater harvesting, among others, to meet this target by 2025.

Coinciding with World Water Day today, the Philippines’ largest conglomerate is taking on its own water sustainability challenge to reduce water usage and educate employees, business partners and communities about water stewardship.

In an effort to further mesh sustainability into its business goals and processes, San Miguel is rolling out an integrated water management system across its entire operations.

Water is an essential ingredient to many of San Miguel’s brands. For instance, beer is 90% water, and liquor is around 85% water. Across the San Miguel Group, water is used to clean, cool, heat, produce steam and pasteurize. It is an important input to raw materials and packaging and major input to the power and oil refining industries.

“San Miguel is going to set an example in its responsible use and management of water,” said SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang.

“Many of our facilities are already efficient in terms of using water, but we can always do more. Given the scale of our need, we’re working to become more conscious about our water footprint.”

Cutting groundwater use, recycling, harvesting rainwater

A major component of San Miguel’s water strategy involves minimizing the amount of water it draws from ground water sources, and instead reusing and recycling process water and harvesting rainwater.

The company said it can also utilize surface runoff water (usually excess stormwater) from mountains, creeks and rivers and filter and store these for irrigation.

Ang reports that the first year of implementation will focus on establishing baseline information, data that will then be analyzed to see where the company could improve both, in terms of efficiency and conservation.

Metering and establishing operating standards is the first order of the day. While many of the newer plants have water meters per line and per process, other older facilities need to be fitted with additional meters.

Installing separate water meters will make water audits relatively easier to perform, prevent wastage and improving efficiency.

Petron’s desalination plant

San Miguel’s newer facilities are all built with smart water usage in mind. Petron’s RMP-2 plant in Limay, Bataan is outfitted with the latest technology to reduce freshwater and groundwater consumption and minimize the environmental impact of wastewater discharge from its oil and gas operations.

Much of the raw water used by RMP-2 comes from the sea via a state-of-the art desalination facility. Desalination is a process that transforms salt water into consumable water.

Built at the cost of P474 million, the desalination plant supplies 25% of the roughly 2,100 cu m per hour total water requirements of the refinery. An estimated 60% amount of the total amount of water the refinery uses goes to its boiler-houses—to produce high-pressure steam that, in turn, is used both to generation power and to process steam.

For Petron RMP-2, further areas for water efficiency improvements are in power generation and the refining process itself. Recycling water is an important aspect of the refinery integrated water management system.

About 67% of the water RMP-2 uses is cycled back into the operations before being returned to the sea nearby. Ang’s challenge to refinery operators is to further increase the amount of recycled water without sacrificing product quality.

“It can be done. With technology in our newer facilities, we have enormous innovative capacity to tackle the challenge of water scarcity and create positive water impact.”

SMB efficiency, highest in 10 years

Another business where much has already been done in terms of improving water usage is San Miguel’s beer business. The company owns and manages five breweries, and a packaging plant in the Philippines.

Water is not only beer's principal ingredient but also essential in the brewing process. Further driving up water usage in the production of beer is the use of agricultural raw material inputs that also place great demands on water.

In the brewing process, water is used in generating steam, and in the cooling and washing processes. With water efficiency rates ranging from 4.0 to roughly 3.5 hectoliters per hectoliter of beer, San Miguel Brewery’s efficiency levels have improved significantly over the last 10 years.

A decade ago, water usage was between a ratio of 5.4 and 4.3 per hectoliter. Nevertheless, the country’s leading brewer is looking to improve levels by reducing the amount of water related to packaging.

Each of the five breweries are equipped with on-site water treatment facilities, but Ang is confident that improvements can still be made to recapture and reuse wastewater across the operations.

With more fine-tuning in utility management and wastewater recovery, water use can potentially be cut down by as much as 20% in the older plants.

No effort is too small

“At the simplest level, it’s about educating our employees to be more conscious about our water footprint,” Ang says. “No effort is too small. In many of our facilities, we’ve fitted things like pre-rinse spray taps and low-flush toilets or percussive taps. We regularly monitor for leaks and we’re educating our employees on the importance of conservation. We’re looking to building cisterns and systems to collect rainwater.”

San Miguel is also participating in large-scale government PPP projects. To provide a stable water supply to 21 municipalities and three cities in Bulacan, San Miguel signed a concession agreement to undertake the P16-billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply System.

Says Ang, “Water is a basic human resource and a basic right. But it is also an essential ingredient to our products and business. Our responsibility therefore is far greater than most. We hope many other companies will follow our example.”