Scientists and researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have figured out a way to make biofuel by using two by-products from whiskey distillation. The distillation process produces a massive amount of waste, 90 percent of the material, which makes the prospect of using it for biofuel very promising.
Two main by-products of whiskey distillation consist of leftover barley grains called draff and pot ale, which is the remaining liquid runoff in the still after the spirit was syphoned. Every year, the whiskey industry, worth about $6.5 billion annually, produces over 500,000 tons of draff and over 400 million gallons of pot ale.
Whiskey distillers sell half of the draff as livestock feed and simple throw out the rest.
This new form of biofuel, that produces butanol, has many advantages over that of ethanol, the commonly used biofuel. Compared to ethanol, butanol produces a 30 percent higher power output. Butanol is also compatible with almost any fuel mixture in current car motors, and it also can be transported via pipeline more easily than ethanol.
The butanol option from whiskey by-products is also more “environmentally sustainable” than raising crops for biofuel, said research leader, professor Martin Tangney. It has been reported that creating a waste-based biofuel would offset any rising crop prices that are resulted from raising fuel-specific crops.
“The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife,” said Dr. Richard Dixon, member of WWF Scotland. “Whiskey powered cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels.”
Tangney’s team uses ABE fermentation to process the waste into biofuel. However, the current processing is more expensive for butanol than for ethanol. But the team is trying to figure out a process to level out the costs.
Whiskey biofuel could rake in 100 million pounds annually in Scotland if this endeavor is successful.