Cars could run on fuel made from whisky by-products


By Christine Lavelle

SCIENTISTS say they have discovered a way to make cars run on whisky.

Two years in the making, the new fuel has finally been developed from the by-products of Scotland’s national drink.

Researchers at Edinburgh Napier University’s Biofuel Research Centre have been devising the plan to produce the next generation of biofuel since 2007.

The team was provided with samples of the main whisky by-products – ‘pot ale’ and ‘draff’ – from Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery.

That was used as the basis for producing butanol to be used as fuel.

Professor Martin Tangney, director of the Research Centre, said: “Our objective was to look for sustainable ways of producing biofuel to meet the energy demands that are upon us all.

“With oil resources dwindling and the need for natural sustainability, allowing people to generate their own fuel to sustain their own economies and environment is important to reducing carbon omissions.

“For these reasons I thought bringing sustainable biofuel to the market would be a really good idea.”

Professor Tangney’s background is in microbiology, and he has worked with organisms to create butanol in the hope of taking it to the commercial market.

He said: “This particular project comes from our idea of using virgin crops or virgin material but from a mass that has already been generated.

“The whisky industry in Scotland produces a single product – malt whisky – but has a number of by-products left over.

“We are looking to produce more powerful biofuel from existing biological material that has been generated.”

He claims the newly developed fuel gives 30 per cent more output power than ethanol, and with 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tonnes of draff produced each year, it recycles waste which comes as a result of whisky production.

The £260,000 research project was funded by Scottish Enterprise’s ‘Proof of Concept’ programme.

Andy McDonald, director of renewable and clean technology at Scottish Enterprise, said he is pleased with the results so far.

He said: “Any project which focuses on reducing the impact of carbon omissions is a welcomed one.

“So far the results we have seen here are terrifically good, using a purely Scottish source to help clean up the environment has been a brilliant idea.

“We are happy to support the ongoing success of the team at Napier University.”

The Scottish Government has set out clear targets for carbon reduction in this country, between now and the year 2020.

Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Jim Mather, said: “This is going to work very well with the government’s zero-waste policy, as it is essentially making sure we make the most of our biofuels potential in a sustainable way.

“I think the other big thing here is a synergy between the biofuel and whisky sectors with academia, who are coming together to carry out something really quite magical.

“It is solving problems like the shipping of waste from islands like Isla and Jura – my own constituency – at a cost and turning it into a productive, profitable initiative.”

Doctor Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: “Scotch whisky is world renowned and one of Scotland’s biggest exports, so it is great to see plans that could not only help power the cars on our roads and reduce fossil-fuel emissions but also help reduce the environmental impacts of the industry itself.

“The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife.

“So, whisky powered-cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels.

“Last year the whisky industry published plans to help lower its impacts and it is clear that this scheme could assist them in doing just that.

“Since the whisky industry relies on Scotland’s clean environment for its main ingredients it would be great if the industry could help Scotland reduce its emissions from road transport.”


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