Edinburg Napier University has developed a biofuel out of whiskey distillery waste. The resultant product is biobutanol. This new biofuel can be used in unmodified ordinary cars. It can be used by itself or blended with gasoline or diesel to create other biofuels to turn everyone’s vehicle eco-friendly.
Unlike other biofuels that are made from food based feedstock, Edinburgh Napier’s Biofuel Research Centre uses Glenkinchie Distillery waste, “‘pot ale’, the liquid from the copper stills, and ‘draff’, the spent grains,” for its biobutanol production. The malt whiskey industry “produces 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tonnes of draff” per year.
Jim Mather, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism said: “This innovative use of waste products demonstrates a new sustainable option for the biofuel industry, while also supporting the economic and environmental objectives of the Scottish Government’s new Zero Waste Plan. “
The biobutanol produced has a 30 percent higher energy output than ethanol and creates a more powerful fuel than gas. It is also safer to store and less corrosive than ethanol. Unmodified automobiles can run on any gasoline blend using butanol. Cars using ethanol must be modified with the further restriction that ethanol can only be “blended up to 85 percent.” Biobutanol can be added to gas or diesel at existing refineries without changes to the equipment, transportation methods or distribution facilities.
Professor Martin Tangney, Director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University describes the center’s use of whiskey waste as:
“The EU has declared that biofuels should account for 10% of total fuel sales by 2020. We’re committed to finding new, innovative renewable energy sources.
“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 [of] Scotland’s biggest industries. We’ve worked with some of the country’s leading whisky producers to develop the process.”
Now that the center has developed a process for making biobutanol from whiskey waste, it is now looking to spin off a company to market it commercially. Since gas pumps don’t have to be modified to pump biobutanol or a biobutanol blend, the University hopes that it will be an easy sell to existing gas stations.
So raise a glass of single malt and toast Edinburg Napier University for finding yet another reason for the pursuit of fine scotch whiskey!