The University has filed a patent for the whisky biofuel, which can be used in ordinary cars without any special adaptations. The biofuel is based on biobutanol, which is said to give 30% higher power output than ethanol.
The biofuel process has been developed over the last two years by Edinburgh Napier’s Biofuel Research Centre. The centre was provided with samples of whisky distilling by-products – pot ale and draff – from Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery.
With 1600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tonnes of draff produced by the malt whisky industry annually, there is real potential for biofuel to be available at local garage forecourts alongside traditional fuels. Pot ale is the liquid from the copper stills, and draff is the spent grains.
Whisky biofuel spin-out
The University now plans to create a spin-out company to take the new fuel to market and leverage the commercial opportunity, in the bid to make it available at petrol pumps.
Professor Martin Tangney, Director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University and leader of the project, says: “The EU has declared that biofuels should account for 10% of total fuel sales by 2020. We’re committed to finding new, innovative renewable energy sources.
“While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them.
"This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one Scotland’s biggest industries. We’ve worked with some of the country’s leading whisky producers to develop the process.”
The £260,000 research project was funded by Scottish Enterprise’s ‘Proof of Concept’ programme.
Jim Mather, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism says: "I support the development and use of sustainable biofuels. This innovative use of waste products demonstrates a new sustainable option for the biofuel industry, while also supporting the economic and environmental objectives of the Scottish Government's new Zero Waste Plan.”