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article imageTurning whisky waste into fuel

By Tim Sandle     Oct 28, 2014 in Science
A small independent company in Scotland is turning the waste products from the whisky industry into alcohol for use as a biofuel.
The production of Scotch whisky requires three ingredients: water, yeast and a grain, primarily barley. These ingredients are used to produce an array of flavors and interesting drinks. Not all of the processed material is drinkable. Each year the whisky industry produces 500,000 metric tons of residual solids called draff, which is sugar-rich, and 1.6 billion liters of a yeasty liquid known as pot ale. These so-called “waste products” are either discarded or they are spread across agricultural lands, turned into low-grade animal feed or discharged into the sea.
A new use has been found of the waste materials, thanks to the brains behind a new company, according to Lab Manager magazine. The company is a small start-up company called Celtic Renewables. The company was formed in 2011 and it has developed a process based on a century-old fermentation technique.
Celtic Renewables has taken an old industrial process developed to turn molasses and other sugars into chemicals and has instead altered this process to turn draff and pot ale into alcohols. They types of alcohols that can be produced are: acetone, 1-butanol and ethanol. Both butanol and ethanol can be utilized as fuel.
According to the founder of the company, Martin Tangney, interviewed by the American Chemical Society: “Whisky is iconic and synonymous with Scotland. Distillers are always going to make it the same way, and what they need to do is innovate on how they can make a sustainable industry.” The use of the waste material to make alcohol is a key example of sustainability in action.
For the next stage the company aims to produce the fuel material on an industrial and commercial scale. The company is increasing production with the help of the U.K. Department of Energy & Climate Change grant.
More about Whisky, Waste, Biofuel, Ethanol, Yeast
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