Scotland is famous for producing the water of life, and now there are plans afoot to turn it into another useful product—biofuel. The link between whiskey and biofuel may not be immediately obvious, but Biofuels International reports that three Scottish companies are collaborating to repurpose distillery biproducts.
Ardnamurchan Distillery in Argyll, western Scotland, is named after the remote Highland peninsula where it was opened in 2014. It uses a hydro-electric generator which is powered by the river, and supplies 100% of the power needed to run the distillery. A biomass boiler that runs on locally sourced wood chips provides all the hot water.
The barley used at Ardnamurchan is grown on the estate, with the draff heads going for feedstock, and the pot ale is currently reused for fertiliser for local farms. Now, the distillery has joined forces with Woodlands Renewables and Celtic Renewables to make further use of the pot ale, and create what has been described as Scotland’s first biorefinery.
Donald Houston, of Ardnamurchan Estates, is the driving force behind the scheme. The new bio refinery will be based in Grangemouth, and it is hoped that it can produce one million litres of sustainable biochemicals each year. Pot ale, which is a biproduct of the whisky distilling process, is also used in the production of biochemicals and biofuel.
Houston explained: “The pot ale is piped over the hill from the distillery to the neighbouring Woodland Renewables, a local business set up to repurpose the distillery’s by-products whilst adding value to the local economy.”
He added: “At the Woodland Renewables plant it is combined with draff (another distillery by-product) and turned into a nutritious animal feed used on the peninsula to feed local livestock. Woodland Renewables will transport part of their pot ale stock to Celtic Renewables.”
The project has already attracted £43 million of funding, and it is hoped that eventually, five large scale refineries can be built to produce sustainable biochemicals. This long-term investment will contribute to the overall carbon net zero target for 2050, and help to drive a sustainable circular economy in Scotland.
Alex Bruce, the Ardnamurchan Distillery MD, commented: “Our energy all comes from local renewable sources (hydro and biomass) and our co-products, which are traditionally produced in all distilleries, are supplied to our neighbours, Woodland Renewables.”
He added: “From there they add value to the local circular economy by providing highly nutritional animal feed to livestock on Ardnamurchan, and we are incredibly excited that they also now deliver additional value to Celtic Renewables for conversion into sustainable chemicals and biofuels.”
Professor Martin Tangney of Celtic Renewables explained that the idea that biproducts from the distilling process could be used to make biofuel first took hold during lab work at Edinburgh Napier University in 2008. The lab-based innovation grew into an ambition which is now finding realisation in the current scheme.
The patented technology will convert 50,000 tonnes of biological material into renewable chemicals and biofuel, which cause minimum environmental damage, and have a useful commercial value.
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