A company spawned from Edinburgh Napier University’s Biofuel Research Centre hopes to give a whole new meaning to the phrase 'drink driving', by using the by-products from Scotland’s £4 billion whisky industry to create a viable eco-friendly alternative to petrol.
Celtic Renewables Ltd. plans to create bio-butanol from substances that would otherwise be considered waste in the malt whisky distillation process.
As a bio-fuel, bio-butanol can be used as a direct substitute for petrol or as a blend without the need for modification to the engine.
Celtic Renewables are now working with Scottish Enterprise to produce this and other renewable chemicals on an industrial scale. Researchers behind the process are said to be excited as to the huge potential for it to be adapted to other bio-chemicals.
The process uses two of the main waste products from distillation: pot ale, which is the remnant liquid in the copper stills, and the spent grains.
Scotland produces 1,600 million litres of pot ale, and 500,000 tonnes of the spent grains, known as 'draff' in the distillation business.
“The Scottish malt whisky industry is a ripe resource for developing bio-butanol,” said Professor Martin Tangney, founder of Celtic Renewables and Director of the Biofuel Research Centre.
“The pot ale and draff could be converted into biofuel as a direct substitute for fossil-derived fuel, which would reduce oil consumption and C02 emissions while also providing energy security – particularly in the rural and remote homelands of the whisky industry,” he continued.
The research project was initially awarded £267,000 by Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept Programme, while Celtic Renewables has since benefited from a £70,000 Scottish Enterprise SMART: Scotland grant to aid the technology scale-up and commercial feasibility.
Speaking at the launch which took place at Napier’s Sighthill Campus, Lena Wilson, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise emphasised the value of innovation and highlighted her commitment to supporting the company:
“Celtic Renewables is a great example of how a company with global growth potential can be created from pioneering research.
"By supporting ideas with real commercial capability, we can help transform cutting-edge knowledge into new high-growth sustainable businesses for Scotland. We’ve worked closely with the management team, most recently through our High Growth Start-Up Team, to assist Celtic Renewables with its spin-out and initial funding phases, and we’ll continue to work alongside the company to help it achieve its growth ambitions.”