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First journey success for car fuelled by whisky residue

The first car in the world to be fuelled by a whisky residue biofuel has just completed its first journey on the roads of Scotland.

Working closely with the Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire, Celtic Renewables (a spinout company from Edinburgh Napier University) has developed a ground-breaking process that could revolutionise sustainable transport

The fuel – biobutanol – is a new, advanced and sustainable biofuel, which is a direct replacement for petrol and diesel. It is produced from draff – the sugar-rich kernels of barley which are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process necessary for whisky production – and pot ale, the copper-containing yeasty liquid that is left over following distillation.

Each year in Scotland, the Malt Whisky industry produces almost 750,000 tonnes of draff and two billion litres of pot ale, and Celtic Renewables plans to put these residues to good use by converting them into millions of litres of biobutanol. No engine modification is required for petrol and diesel vehicles to use this fuel.

“This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whisky production residues,” Professor Martin Tangney, the company's founder and President, claimed. “It is fitting to do this historic drive in Scotland, which is famous not just for its world-renowned whisky 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."

Tullibardine distillery manager John Torrance added: “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 ground-breaking first for renewable energy, for transport and for the Scottish whisky industry alike."

The Celtic Renewables process, that uses bacterial fermentation to produce biobutanol, was originally devised in the UK at the start of the last century to produce acetone for explosives used in the First World War. It was phased-out in the 1960s due to competition from the petrochemical industry, but now Celtic Renewables is bringing it back to life by applying it to the residues of the Scotch Whisky Industry.

The Edinburgh-based company recently received £9 million funding support from the Scottish Government as co-investment to build a commercial demonstrator plant in Grangemouth, with commissioning due in 2018.