Scots scientists create biofuel from whisky waste products

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A biofuel derived from whisky by-products could be about to replace petrol as the fuel of the future.

Scientists at Edinburgh Napier University have discovered how to create the environmentally-sustainable fuel from whisky by-products.

 

A biofuel derived from whisky by-products could be about to replace petrol as the fuel of the future.

Scientists at Edinburgh Napier University have discovered how to create the environmentally-sustainable fuel from whisky by-products.

The fuel, called butanol provides 25-30 per cent more output than ethanol, which is currently used as an additive to petrol.  Cars would be able to run on butanol without any modifications as it has a similar combustion rate to petrol.

The process was developed by Edinburgh Napier’s Biofuel Research Centre and uses waste products from whisky production in the process.

The team combined pot ale – the liquid from the copper stills distillery equipment – and the spent grains used to make whisky, also known as draff, to produce butanol.  Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery provided the raw materials for the research.

With 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tons of draff produced annually by the malt whisky industry, there is potential for the new biofuel to be available on the garage forecourt.

Professor Martin Tangney, director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, said:  “The EU has declared that biofuels should account for 10% of total fuel sales by 2020.

“While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them.

“This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one of Scotland’s biggest industries.”

Professor Tangney added:
“Oil won’t last forever so we have to find alternative ways of powering vehicles.

“The most common biofuel on the forecourt at the moment is ethanol, which is sold as a blend to comply with EU regulations and the consumer is probably not even aware of it.

“However, ethanol only has70 per cent of the energy of petrol whereas butanol is almost the same as petrol.

“It would come in as a blended technology at first but we could envisage that it could be used on its own.”