Whiskey May Be the Next Step in Biofuel

Let's drink to that!

In a brilliant and sustainability-conscious move, the Scottish company Celtic Renewables Ltd. has managed to manufacture a biofuel called biobutanol from draff and pot ale, the residue of whiskey production. The recent test drive proved successful, so we might just see biobutanol powered cars on our streets soon.

Through their pioneering research, the company discovered that the kernels of barley (draff) and yeasty liquid (pot ale) left over from fermentation could be combined and undergo ABE fermentation to produce biobutanol capable of replacing fossil fuels like gasoline.

One quick advantage? Biobutanol doesn’t require you to modify your car’s engine like electric cars since it works just the same as gasoline and diesel.

The discovery is particularly helpful for waste management since almost 750,000 tonnes of draff and two billion liters of pot ale are produced annually by the malt whiskey industry, according to the company. Due to its lack of value, all of this would have been thrown away if it wasn’t for Martin Tangney’s discovery.

The president of Celtic Renewables and director of Edinburgh Napier University’s Biofuel Research Centre, Tangney meets the demand of car industries to commit to sustainable objectives by effectively utilizing waste.

"What I did was I look at this as a business innovation as much as a technical innovation and thought: 'if 70 percent of the cost of production is coming from the raw materials—why not tackle that end of it?'" Tangney said in an interview with Reuters.

The Scottish government, among other investors, are supporting the company with approximately 9 million pounds in funding to help build a plant by 2018 that will produce 500,000 liters of whiskey-derived biofuel a year. Thinking down the road, Tangney estimates that they could eventually produce 50 million liters of biofuel a year given the untapped raw material throughout Scotland. Their company also believes that with the global potential of whiskey biofuel, it could create a £100 million industry in Scotland alone—and that’s not including their target countries, like Japan, India, and the U.S.


"The whiskey industry will now have a sustainable and reliable way of disposing of their residue," Tangney noted, "Plus we’ll create a brand-new industry out of something that has no value whatsoever."

The conclusion? The more whiskey residue we need to power these cars, the more whiskey we need to make. It's win win. 

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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