Distiller aims to fuel new business

A small Scottish whisky maker is aiming to turn its byproducts into biofuel and become the world’s first whisky distillery to fuel vehicles in a move which could see Scotland’s 100-plus distilleries feed a £60m (€75m) industry.

Independent producer Tullibardine has linked up with Edinburgh Napier University to produce biobutanol, and a spinout company from the university, Celtic Renewables, is looking at two sites to build a processing plant.

The process has been developed by Prof Martin Tangney, who hails from Macroom, Co Cork.

The distillery is supplying byproducts to a plant in northeast England to refine the process, which could help met the Scottish government’s targets on carbon emissions and the EU’s on biofuel use.

Tullibardine, 50km north-west of Edinburgh, supplies sugar-rich ground barley, known as draff, and yeasty liquid, or pot ale, which are byproducts from the fermentation and distillation processes.

Distillery managing director Douglas Ross spends £250,000 a year to dispose of these byproducts spreading them on fields or making them into animal feed, so for him it replaces a cost with a commercial benefit.

The project hopes to identify the site of its new processing plant by mid-2013 with a capacity to take byproducts from the many malt whisky distillers across the highlands and islands of Scotland and a handful of large grain distilleries largely in the nation’s central belt.

The industry is domin-ated by big drinks groups such as Johnnie Walker maker Diageo and Chivas Regal distiller Pernod Ricard, but also includes a string of smaller groups and individual distilleries.

Prof Tangney, director at the university’s biofuel research centre, has helped develop the process from the in the laboratory using three litres of pot ale before scaling up to 10,000 litres at the English plant.

“This project demonstrates that innovative use of existing technologies can utilise resources on our doorstep to benefit both the environment and the economy,” he said.

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