Using by-product samples from the Glenkinchie Distillery, scientists at the Biofuel Research Centre, Napier, developed biobutanol – a biofuel which gives 30 per cent more output power than ethanol.
The fuel is made from two whisky by-products: ‘pot ale’, the liquid from the copper stills; and ‘draff’, the spent grains. As these are significant by-products from all whisky making, a Napier spokesperson told BeverageDaily.com that the fuel process has potential across the whisky industry.
This could help transform the carbon footprint of whisky production. The spokesperson said: “We’re effectively re-using products that have already been processed once to make the whisky. Moreover, if the fuel comes to market as a blend with petrol then there will also be a significant reduction in the dependence on oil.”
Now that Napier has filed a patent for the biofuel innovation, the Scottish university plans to create a spin-off company to take the new fuel to market. It is considered most likely that the fuel will be commercialised for use at the petrol pump as it is more powerful than ethanol.
Professor Martin Tangney, director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, said using whisky to produce biofuels is an attractive option.
“While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them. This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one Scotland’s biggest industries.”
The technology used to turn the whisky waste into fuel was inspired by a 100 year old process developed by a chemist called Chaim Weizmann, who studied butanol fermentation initially as part of a programme to produce rubber synthetically. The process was used later in explosives manufacture.
The £260,000 research project that resulted in the latest modification in the process was funded by the Scottish Enterprise ‘Proof of Concept’ programme.