PORT CARBON - A combined heat and power system that has been "two years in the making" at America's Oldest Brewery's Mill Creek plant is expected to become operational in the next two to three weeks.

Robert Seaman Jr., plant manager at Yuengling, said Friday that the CHP system is going to have the ability to turn both methane and natural gas into electricity.

The methane gas is already generated at its brewery at 310 Mill Creek Ave., coming from the industrial wastewater pretreatment plant also on the property that was built in 2000.

In general, pretreatment reduces or eliminates traces of organic material and biochemical oxygen in industrial wastewater before it's discharged into the sewer. It will also reduce the acidity of the wastewater.

"The generator is going to generate electricity," Seaman said. "It's called combined heat and power because we generate power but also generate waste heat and that waste heat is going to be used to heat our pasteurization process. We'll use less steam to heat our tunnel pasteurizer because we're preheating the water with the heat from the CHP system."

Once up and running sometime in the week of April 21 or the week of April 28, the CEP system with a 400-kilowatt generator will be able to generate about 20 percent of Yuengling's total electricity needs at the facility.

"It's definitely ahead of the curve on technology," Seaman said. "This is a huge jump forward."

Currently, methane coming from the pretreatment plant goes through a refrigeration unit that separates any moisture in it, getting it ready to burn, Seaman said, then it is burned off in a flare stack.

The new system is going to have a methane storage tank that will allow Yuengling to build up the storage of methane before it goes to the generator.

Once operational, the only time the flare stack will run is if the generator ever shuts down since the methane will need to be disposed.

"Hopefully, it will be used very minimally," Seaman said.

Natural gas will only be used if there is not enough methane.

The system was designed with a company called EMG, who Seaman said has built other similar systems, and the generator comes from a German corporation, 2G CENERGY, a manufacturer of decentralized CHP cogeneration systems.

It is used in other breweries, as well, and Seaman visited one with a CHP system when working on this project.

"It's really environmentally friendly," he said. "We're actually getting a benefit out of a thing that's a waste product."