Edinburgh start-up to make whisky biofuel

Prof Martin Tangney Dr Tangney said the Scottish malt whisky industry was "a ripe resource" for developing biobutanol

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A new company has been formed to commercialise a process for producing biofuel made from whisky by-products.

Edinburgh Napier University's Celtic Renewables Ltd will initially focus on Scotland's £4bn malt whisky industry to develop biobutanol and other chemicals.

The company said biobutanol could be used as a direct substitute for fossil-derived fuel.

It said the process also had "huge global potential" to be adapted to other biological by-products.

Celtic Renewables is now working with Scottish Enterprise to produce the biofuel from sustainable resources on an industrial scale.

Its fermentation process uses the two main by-products of whisky production - 'pot ale', which is the residue left in copper stills, and 'draff', the spent grains.

Each year the industry produces 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 500,000 tonnes of draff.

Research has suggested biobutanol provides 25% more power output than the traditional bioethanol.

In contrast to ethanol, butanol can run in unmodified engines with petrol and may also be blended with diesel and biodiesel.

'Ripe Resource'

Prof Martin Tangney, founder of Celtic Renewables and director of Napier University's Biofuel Research Centre, said: "The Scottish malt whisky industry is a ripe resource for developing biobutanol.

"The pot ale and draff could be converted into biofuel as a direct substitute for fossil-derived fuel, which would reduce oil consumption and CO2 emissions while also providing energy security - particularly in the rural and remote homelands of the whisky industry."

Doug Ward, founder of biofuel producer Argent Energy, has been appointed as chairman of the start-up, which has secured private investment from Adelphi Distillery co-owner Donald Houston.

Celtic Renewables is being officially launched at Napier's Sighthill Campus by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

Mr Ewing said: "Turning our whisky industry's by-products into raw materials for sustainable biofuels which can be used to power ordinary family cars is an example of the sort of innovative thinking Scotland excels in."

The initial Napier research project received £267,000 of support from Scottish Enterprise.

Celtic Renewables has since benefited from a separate £70,000 Scottish Enterprise grant to assist in technology scale-up and commercial feasibility.

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