Celtic Renewables creates biofuel for cars from whiskey residue


UK-based start-up company Celtic Renewables has created a new biofuel for cars made from whiskey residue.  

Named biobutanol, the new biofuel could serve as a replacement for petrol and diesel. The Edinburgh-based start-up has conducted a successful test in Scotland this week using a Ford Focus vehicle.

The advanced biofuel was used to run the car without any modifications done to the car engine, implying that the new fuel could help in sustainable transport.

Celtic Renewables founder and president Martin Tangney said: "This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whiskey production residues.

“It is fitting to do this historic drive in Scotland, which is famous not just for its world-renowned whiskey but also for being a powerhouse for renewable energy.

“Celtic Renewables is playing its part in sustainability by taking this initiative from a research project at Edinburgh Napier University to, what we believe will be, a multi-billion-pound global business with the opportunity to turn transport green.”

To develop this novel process, the start-up firm worked closely with the Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire, Scotland.

Biobutanol is produced from draff, the sugar-rich kernels of barley that are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process required for producing whiskey, as well as pot ale, the copper-containing yeasty liquid that is left over after the distillation process. 

The malt whiskey industry in Scotland produces nearly 750,000t of draff and two billion litres of pot ale on an annual basis, and Celtic Renewables intends to convert this residue into millions of litres of the new biofuel.

"This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whiskey production residues."

Tullibardine distillery manager John Torrance said: "Right from the outset when Celtic Renewables approached us we could see the game-changing potential of a new fuel created from our by-products. 

"We're a forward thinking distillery and we're happy to support what promises to be a groundbreaking first for renewable energy, for transport and for the Scottish whiskey industry alike.

"The Scottish Government has also provided £9m funding to the company as a co-investment for constructing a new commercial demonstrator plant in Grangemouth, which is expected to be commissioned by next year.

The bacterial fermentation process used by Celtic Renewables was initially developed in the UK during the First World War for producing acetone for explosives, but it was phased-out in 1960 due to competition from petrochemical industry.


Image: Celtic Renewables creates a new biofuel for cars that serves as an alternative for petrol and diesel. Photo: courtesy of Celtic Renewables.