Whisky is a new biofuel

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A Scottish company has unveiled the first sample of a biofuel made from Scotch whisky by-products.

Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables spent the last year developing its process as part of a £1m UK government programme.

The firm says the biofuel, called biobutanol, could provide an alternative to car and aviation fuel, as well as other technologies.

It hopes to build its first demonstration facility at Grangemouth petrochemical plant by 2018.

Celtic Renewables is a spin-out company from the Biofuel Research Centre (BfRC) at Edinburgh Napier University. It was founded by Prof Martin Tangney, the centre’s director.

The firm, in partnership with the Belgium-based BioBase Europe Pilot Plant, produced the first samples of biobutanol from waste earlier this month.

The biofuel is produced from draff – kernels of barley which are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process in whisky production – and pot ale, the yeasty liquid that is left over following distillation.

The by-products were provided by Perthshire distillery Tullibardine, which has worked in partnership with Celtic since 2012.

Celtic Renewables Chief Executive, Mark Simmers, said: “This historic sample could herald a new era in sustainable biofuel and the birth of a UK industry worth £100m-a-year.

“The process we have perfected takes residues that present a disposal issue to the whisky industry and creates value by producing not only sustainable biofuel but also green chemicals and high-grade animal feed.

“The exciting challenge for us now as a business is to convert our proven technology into a multi-million pound industry, and building our first demonstration plant is the next critical step to achieving that goal.”

The company is now seeking funding from the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) £25m advanced biofuel demonstration competition. If successful, it will proceed with plans for the demonstration facility.

Distillery Manager, John Torrance, said: “Tullibardine has enjoyed a great relationship with the team at Celtic Renewables and is proud to be the first distillery in the world to have its by-products converted into advanced biofuel.

“The Scottish whisky industry is expanding, with growth in international markets, and we are very excited about the potential this process offers not just to Tullibardine but to the whole whisky industry.”