The commercial exploitation of Scottish whisky by-products took a huge step closer to reality this week, with the formation of a new company to produce biofuel.
Initially focusing on the country’s malt whisky industry, itself with a net value of £4bn per annum, Edinburgh Napier University’s Celtic Renewables Ltd will develop a range of chemicals. Most notably, it will develop biobutanol, said to be an adequate substitute for fossil fuels.
The company, headed up by Argent Energy founder Doug Ward, will work with Scottish Enterprise, who have already invested £267,000 in the initial research and a further £70,000 since the commercial enterprise was agreed.
In addition, private investment has been secured from Donald Houston, Adelphi Distillery co-owner. Sourcing such commercial finance in Scotland is a true sign of the times, with many new enterprises taking a similar route.
Moreover, many established companies are also using Edinburgh factoring service, to help them expand and innovate.
The move made by Celtic Renewables has significant potential.
Whisky production produces two main by-products; pot ale – the residue left in copper stills and draff – the spent grains. Year on year, more than 1,600 million litres of pot ale are produced whilst 500,000 tonnes of draff are also left over.
Biobutanol is produced by fermenting these products, and the research has indicated that it can provide a 25% increase in the output that other bioethanols produce. Furthermore, the product can be mixed far more easily with diesel and biodiesel and does not require any engine modifications to be made.