Celtic Renewables Creates Sustainability With Whiskey

By March 21, 2012

Scotland-based startup Celtic Renewables has figured out a way to produce biofuel from the byproducts of alcohol fermentation.

The company is specifically targeting the waste that comes from scotch and whiskey production, and through their process hopes to bring a new level of sustainability to rural and isolated areas of Scotland where whiskey production is prevalent.

The process utilizes draff – the barley grain remaining from liquor production – and pot ale – the alcohol residue left behind after the first distillation. By mixing these two byproducts, they create a broth that is then fermented and distilled to create butanol, ethanol, and acetone. Anything left from the distillation process is dried to create animal feed, presumably resulting in untold numbers of carefree drunken livestock across the nation.

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Celtic Renewables certainly has a lot of material to work with; each year the whiskey industry creates 1.6 billion liters of pot ale and 500,000 tons of draff. Generally biofuels are made from crops that are grown specifically for fueling purposes, but many have questioned the sustainability of the practice. The company set out with the specific goal of utilizing waste byproducts to create bio-butanol, the next generation of biofuel.

According to the company’s website, bio-butanol contains “25 percent more energy per unit volume than bioethanol,” which is generally made from crops like corn and sugarbeets. In addition to being more potent the whiskey fuel is also safer, featuring both a lower vapor pressure and higher flashpoint, and can be used in unmodified engines as long as it’s blended with standard gasoline.

Celtic Renewable’s process was developed in 2010 at the Biofuel Research Centre of Edinburgh Napier University. Professor Martin Tangney, the founder of the company and chief scientific officer on the project, has said he believes the research will bring sustainability, along with a rapidly growing industry, to Scotland.

It’s unclear when we’ll be filling up our cars with a bio-butanol blend here in the U.S., but it’s still a relief to know that soon I won’t be the only one partly fueled on whiskey.

Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.