Going Green, Fuel From Whisky to Drive Your Car

Whisky fuel for carsIt may soon be possible to drive your car on fuel from whisky. Yes you did read that right and no someone is not going to take a bottle of your favourite dram and pour it into your tank!
Fuel made from whisky is already being developed as part of a new initiative between Tullibardine Malt Whisky Distillery and Celtic Renewables. The future prospects are quite exciting for the industry as I will show later.

What Fuel is Produced and How?

The fuel produced from the whisky is in actual fact produced from the waste products that are a result of the whole process. For every gallon of whisky manufactured there are eight gallons of waste liquid ale and alongside this there is also all the waste left over from the malted barley that goes to make up this ale.
Celtic Renewables’ scientists have developed a technique whereby bacteria produce biobutanol from the waste products and this is the final fuel. Or it will be when all the ingredients are added to make it suitable for a car engine.

Biobutanol has the same energy value as petrol and cars do not need any modifications to run on it.

Why is it Important for the Whisky Industry?

The waste products from whisky have always presented a bit of a problem for distilleries. The barley waste (draff) does go to form cattle feed but the whole thing does present an overall expenditure of some size. Tullibardine is one of Scotland’s smaller distilleries but even they spend upwards of £250,000 a year on waste disposal. For some of the really big distilleries the potential savings are enormous.

The advantages for the environment too are pretty good since the whole process is from an obviously renewable resource. The amount of waste from the manufacture of the 1.8 billion bottles of whisky a year that come out of Scotland is certainly not insignificant.

Sometimes the whisky industry does not always present the greenest public face but now and again it manages to get it right the use of surplus energy from Bowmore to heat the municipal pool is one such example and this looks to be potentially another.

The Tullibardine Distillery and Whisky

The Tullibardine distillery is relatively young in Scotch whisky terms. It was established in 1949 at Blackford in Perthshire but mothballed by its owners Whyte and Mackay in 1995. It was sold to Tullibardine Distillery Limited on 2003 who reopened production, Wikipedia claims it was sold on to Picard Vins et Spiritueux in 2011 but the website declares that they are an independant firm. (Wikipedia is not always to be trusted as I hope you realise).

The distillery has a visitor centre and I hope to be able to drop in on them fairly soon as I will be driving the A9, almost past their front door, in a few weeks time. Sadly since I will be driving then I will not be able to fuel myself up on whisky, though I may invest in a bottle from the shop to sample later!

Any of you been to Tullibardine? I would love to hear your experience and if any of you want to know more about making fuel from whisky waste then fire away. I will try to point you in the right direction.

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13 Responses to Going Green, Fuel From Whisky to Drive Your Car

  1. Lisa Marie says:

    What a great idea and it sounds like it’s a much greener fuel than corn based ethanol we have here in US. Very interesting.

    • Roger Shann says:

      Thanks Lisa, I am all for any good use that can be put to waste. The barley waste (draff) can be used for cattle feed but the ale had little value up until now.

  2. John Stewart says:

    Wow. What a great idea. I’m not sure what the worldwide whiskey consumption is but I’m sure there is enough of this stuff to make a difference

  3. I enjoyed this and learned a few things too. I can’t wait to get pulled over for “driving drink”

  4. Dave says:

    That is amazing! When I started to read this I thought ‘What a waste of Whisky!’ But then I realised it was the waste product from the Whisky making process!
    Does the car’s exhaust smell of Whisky?

    • Roger Shann says:

      I found some photos of people pretending to pour whisky into their car but copyright stops me showing them :-) The fuel smells like any other fuel waste.

  5. Jim says:

    This appears, at least on the surface, to be an incredible technological breakthrough. Bacteria producing biobutanol sounds like a natural fermentation process. Do you know what is left in the ale that they feed on?

    • Roger Shann says:

      Hi Jim, as far as I can find out the process also produces acetone, ethanol and high grade animal feed. What is left after that I am not sure. They do claim a completely green result.

  6. morgan says:

    WOW this is an amazing bit of information. I had know idea you could this with whiskey. You never know this could be the way forward for our cars.

    • Roger Shann says:

      Thanks for your comment Morgan. It is small scale right now but the aim is for 10,000 litres a year in the near future

  7. Sonya says:

    Sounds like a very imaginative process. Is there any data to show how well this process is working so far?

    • Roger Shann says:

      Thanks Sonya. The initial tests are small scale but it is hoped to produce 10,00 litres a year pretty soon and if it goes industry wide the potential is enormous. I have just learned that Cameron Bridge Distillery in Fife runs on its own waste products and several Diageo plants have similar schemes.
      This Celtic renewables is slightly different but they are all for the better I think.

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