Whisky distillery tries a wee dram of biofuel

LONDON, Sept 25 Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:25am EDT

LONDON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - A small Scottish whisky maker is aiming to turn its by-products into biofuel and become the world's first whisky distillery to fuel car and trucks in a move which could see Scotland's 100-plus distilleries feed a new 60-million-pound industry.

Independent whisky maker Tullibardine has linked up with Edinburgh Napier University to produce biobutanol, and a spin-out company from the university, Celtic Renewables, is looking at two sites to build a processing plant in central Scotland.

The distillery is supplying by-products to a plant at Redcar in northeast England to refine the process, which could help met the Scottish government's targets on carbon emissions and the European Union's on the use of biofuels.

Tullibardine, some 50 km north west of Edinburgh, supplies sugar-rich ground barley, known as draff, and yeasty liquid, or pot ale, both of which are by products from the fermentation and distillation processes in whisky making.

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

The project hopes to identify the site of its new processing plant by the middle of next year with a capacity to take by-products from the many malt whisky distillery across the highlands and islands of Scotland and a handful of large grain distilleries largely in the nation's central belt.

The industry is dominated 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.

Professor Martin 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 Redcar 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 on Tuesday in a statement.

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