Alternative fuels are growing in popularity as the world faces growing oil prices. Currently biofuels are produced using a variety of sources, including crops and fast-growing plants that would otherwise never be used as crops. Fuels can also be produced from the byproducts of other industries, such as refining oil from cooking, and even the whiskey business.
Celtic Renewables Ltd in Scotland, attached to the Edinburgh Napier University, is currently in the process of generating biofuel with whiskey byproducts on a large scale. In Scotland, malt whiskey is a $6.28 billion a year industry. Two major byproducts, pot ale and draff, are able to be used to create biofuel and other useful products. Approximately ninety percent of what results from whiskey production is not whiskey, therefore there is significant byproduct use possibilities.
Pot ale is simply residue from the process, which amounts to about 423 million gallons a year. Draff is what remains of the grains which are used to create whiskey, of which there are approximately 500,000 tons created a year. These two byproducts are able to be turned into biobutanol using bacteria which feed on the draff and pot ale in order to generate the butanol.
Biobutanol differs from ethanol in that it can be used in engines not specially fitted for the fuel. Butanol and biobutanol do not come into conflict with regular fuel, diesel or biodiesel, which makes it potentially very profitable and safe. In addition, studies have found that when compared to bioethanol, biobutanol is twenty-five percent more powerful.
Now Celtic Renewables has now signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tullibardine whiskey distillery in Perthshire, Scotland. The aforementioned butanol production process will be used initially on an unknown number of thousands of tons of the distillery’s byproducts. Currently the Tullibardine distillery spends about $405,000 per year to dispose of the draff and pot ale and now with the new agreement, it could result in profit for the company instead. Overall, the industry is expected to be worth nearly $100 million a year initially.
The founder of Celtic Renewables, professor Martin Tangney, stated: “Our partnership with Tullibardine is an important step in the development of a business which combines two iconic Scottish industries- whiskey and renewables. This project demonstrates that innovative use of existing technologies can utilize resources on our doorstep to benefit both the environment and the economy.”