Could Whiskey Be The Fuel Of The Future?

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A Scottish start-up has been exploring the possibility of using whisky by-products as a next-generation biofuel.

“The company is working to capitalise on the tonnes of waste produced by one of Scotland’s most valued industries and turn the dregs of whisky-making into fuel.”

According to an article in Chemical and Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, Celtic Renewables has refined its process based on a century-old fermentation technique and is now taking the step towards a commercial plant.

Martin Tangney, founder, president, and chief scientific officer of the Edinburgh-based firm, says, draff and pot ale “have no commercial value, and in the modern context they represent a disposal issue.”

Three ingredients are required into the process of making whiskey: water, yeast and grain, primarily barley.
But as much as 90 per cent of the output is absolutely waste, and the rest 10 per cent is whiskey. According to the article, each year, the industry produces 500,000 metric tonnes of residual solids called draff and 1.6 billion litres of a yeasty liquid known as pot ale. These by-products are usually spread on agricultural lands, turned into low-grade animal feed or discharged into the sea. Celtic Renewables has taken an old industrial process developed to turn molasses and other sugars into chemicals and fine-tuned it to convert draff and pot ale into acetone, 1-butanol and ethanol, rather than inefficiently re-using these materials or letting them go to waste. The company is scaling up its process with the help of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, private funds and Bio Base Europe as the latter two can be used as fuel.

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