Cork scientist plans to bring whiskey waste biofuel operation to Ireland

UCC graduate and biofuel expert is running a crowdfunding campaign to fund completion of biorefinery
Cork scientist plans to bring whiskey waste biofuel operation to Ireland

Macroom native, Prof. Martin Tangney, whose company plans to convert 50,000 tonnes annually of Scotland's whiskey waste into renewable fuels. Mr Tangney has set his sights on doing the same in Ireland.

An Irish scientist shaking up the Scottish whiskey industry with plans to convert 50,000 tonnes annually of its waste into renewable fuel has set his sights on similar plans for his native land.


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Internationally-recognised expert on biofuel production and UCC graduate, Professor Martin Tangney, is launching a crowdfunding campaign to fund the completion of Scotland’s first biorefinery.

Celtic Renewables is nearing the completion of its first production plant – and Scotland’s first biorefinery – at Caledon Green in Grangemouth, Scotland.

By funding it, he said members of the public will be able to own shares in his company, Celtic Renewables, which has been lauded by industry as one of the most innovative biotech SMEs in Europe.

Mr Tangney said the biorefinery is expected to process around 50,000 tonnes of residues each year from the whiskey industry.

The Macroom native, who studied microbiology at UCC and graduated in 1986, developed a process that converts unwanted and low-value biological material into high-value low-carbon products.

He said that the 50,000 tonnes of residue being reused would add value and sustainability to one of the country’s most important sectors.

Scotland’s whiskey industry is said to be worth more than €6bn to its economy.

Ireland has a burgeoning whiskey industry of its own, with Cork a leading light in the international field.

Mr Tangney said that commissioning of the Scottish biorefinery was on track for the spring of next year, and that crowdfunding would help it achieve ambitious plans for further expansion, including deploying the technology in Ireland.

Investors have so far been impressed, generating £25m (€27.6m) in its last round of funding, one of the largest for a Scottish SME of its size.

Mr Tangney said: “The whole ethos behind Celtic Renewables has been about supporting a circular economy. There is no doubting the awareness around sustainability. However, by enabling the public to become shareholders in the company, we hope to promote a deeper understanding of the importance of industry-lead innovation in achieving environmental change.” 

Covid-19 restrictions in March forced construction in Scotland to stop which stalled the project.

However, Mr Tagney said the company had still achieved a significant milestone in recent weeks, with the arrival of six purpose-built 130,000-litre fermentation vessels from the Netherlands.

Scotland’s ambition to develop a low-carbon, green bio-economy is now closer to becoming a reality, he said.

The new plant is expected to produce around a million litres a year of sustainable products that will displace fossil-fuel equivalents across a broad range of markets.

It will enable sustainability in cosmetics and personal care, paints, food, cleaning, and advanced biofuel, he said.

The project is not the first time that Mr Tangney has wowed investors and the public alike with his inventiveness.


In 2017, he successfully tested in Scotland a standard Ford Focus fuelled by his whiskey residue biofuel, biobutanol.

It was the first time in history that a car was ever driven with a biofuel produced from whiskey production residues.

No engine modification was required which means the new fuel could become a direct replacement for petrol, diesel, and even jet fuel.

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