Fuel Made from Whiskey Takes a Big Step Forward

By Mike Pomranz |

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Still need proof that Prohibition was a bad idea 82 years later? A company has figured out a way to make commercial biofuel from a byproduct of whiskey fermentation. Shots all around: We’re saving the planet!

Celtic Renewables, a company based in Scotland (where there is certainly plenty of whiskey) has re-adapted a fermentation process, used 100 years ago before being abandoned owing to the expense, that takes pot ale and draff, two whiskey residues, and converts them into a biofuel called butanol.

“In the production of whisky less than ten percent of what comes out in the distillery is actually the primary product,” Celtic Renewables founder professor Martin Tangney told Reuters. By turning these byproducts into butanol, his company creates a biofuel even better than the more common biofuel, ethanol. “[Butanol] has almost the same amount of energy as petrol, whereas bioethanol has only got 70 percent of it,” he argues. Plus, since biobutanol is made from waste, Tangney says it’s also more environmentally friendly than options like corn-based ethanol, which comes out of the food chain.

Tangney’s company recently received an £11 million grant from the British government to build a facility for their production process.  Set to be open by late 2018, Celtic Renewables hopes to produce upwards of one million liters of butanol a year—maybe not much in the grand scheme of fuel used, but a big improvement over the 5-liter batches they used to make. At least that’s how much they’ll make if we keep our whiskey drinking levels up high enough to support them.

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