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Scottish whisky to power cars

17 August 2010

WWF Comment

Commenting on today's (Tuesday 17 August) unveiling of plans to power cars using a new super biofuel, made from whisky by-products, WWF Scotland's Director, Dr Richard Dixon, said:

"Scotch whisky is world renowned and one of Scotland's biggest exports, so it is great to see plans that could not only help power the cars on our roads and reduce fossil-fuel emissions but also help reduce the environmental impacts of the industry itself. The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife. So, whisky powered-cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels.

"Last year the whisky industry published plans to help lower its impacts and it is clear that this scheme could assist them in doing just that. Since the whisky industry relies on Scotland's clean environment for its main ingredients it would be great if the industry could help Scotland reduce its emissions from road transport."


For more information contact: Richard Dixon or Mandy Carter on 01350 728200 / 07771 818 677


[1] Edinburgh Napier University Press release: Embargoed until 12noon Tuesday 17th August

Topping up at the petrol pump is about to take an intriguing twist as cars are set to be fuelled with a new super biofuel, made from whisky by-products.

Edinburgh Napier University has filed a patent for the new biofuel, which can be used in ordinary cars, without any special adaptions needed.

The innovative fuel process has been developed over the last two years by Edinburgh Napier’s Biofuel Research Centre. As part of their research the centre was provided with samples of whisky distilling by-products from Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery. The £260,000 research project was funded by Scottish Enterprise’s ‘Proof of Concept’ programme.

The Edinburgh Napier Biofuel research team focused on the £4bn whisky industry as a ripe resource for developing biobutanol – the next generation of biofuel which gives 30% more output power than ethanol. It uses the two main by-products of the whisky production process – ‘pot ale’, the liquid from the copper stills, and ‘draff’, the spent grains, as the basis for producing the butanol that can then be used as fuel.

With 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tonnes of draff produced by the malt whisky industry annually, there is real potential for bio-fuel to be available at local garage forecourts alongside traditional fuels. Unlike ethanol, the nature of the innovative bio-fuel means that ordinary cars could use the more powerful-fuel, instead of traditional petrol. The product can also be used to make other green renewable bio-chemicals, such as acetone.

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.

Director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, Professor Martin Tangney is leading the ground-breaking research. He said: “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.”

Lena Wilson, chief executive, Scottish Enterprise, said: "This pioneering research is testament to Scotland's world-class science base and demonstrates how Scottish Enterprise helps to transform cutting-edge knowledge into successful new high-growth sustainable businesses for Scotland.

“The Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Programme is successful precisely because of its high caliber projects. By proactively taking innovative ideas from the laboratory to the global market place, Scotland can continue to compete at the highest level and successfully boost its economic recovery."

Jim Mather, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism said: "This is an innovative development, and I am delighted to see Edinburgh Napier University once again display its expertise in this field by bringing this biofuel to market.

"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.

"In these challenging economic times we need to play to our strengths and take advantage of the low carbon opportunities of the future. It's exactly this type of innovation that will help sustain economic recovery and deliver future sustainable economic growth.”

Susan Morrison, Director and General Manager at The Scotch Whisky Experience said: “Working in a tourism role to represent the Whisky Industry we are delighted that the green agenda is moving forward at such a pace, both through the Green Tourism Scheme and innovations such as this new whisky bio-fuel.”

The technology for developing bio-fuel from whisky was inspired from a 100 year old process, created Chaim Weizmann*, a Jewish refugee chemist in Manchester who studied the butanol fermentation initially as part of a programme to produce rubber synthetically. The process was then used in explosives manufacture and helped win both WWI and WWII. (*Chaim Weizmann was instrumental in establishing the state of Israel and went on to become the first President.) ENDS Notes to Editor:

For more information please contact:
Hannah Murray or Kirsty Grant at Grayling 0131 226 2363 / firstname.secondname@grayling.com or Patrick McFall at Edinburgh Napier 0131 455 6314 p.mcfall@napier.ac.uk

For Scottish Enterprise Press Office, contact: 0141 228 2019

About Edinburgh Napier University:
Edinburgh Napier is a modern university with campuses located around south central Edinburgh. It offers over 200 undergraduate and post graduate courses and has around 15,000 students from over 100 countries.
The Biofuel Research Centre, part of the University’s Institute for Science and Health Innovation, was established at Edinburgh Napier University to operate as an internationally recognised portal to serve and supply the diverse sectors that will collectively underpin the development and large scale production of the next generation of biofuel in the UK and beyond.

Biofuels are any liquid, solid or gaseous fuels produced from organic matter. The extensive range of organic materials used for biofuel production includes starch and sugary plants such as corn, wheat or sugar cane; oily plants such as rape seed, soya beans or jatropha; vegetable oils and animal fats; wood and straw; algae and organic waste and others. Biofuels are commonly referred to as first generation, mainly bioethanol and biodiesel, or second generation, which cover a variety of technologies currently in the pipeline.
About the Proof of Concept programme
The Proof of Concept Programme supports the pre-commercialisation of leading-edge technologies emerging from Scotland's universities, research institutes and NHS Boards. It helps researchers to export their ideas and inventions from the lab to the global marketplace and create new high growth sustainable businesses for Scotland.
The £79m Programme is developed and operated by Scottish Enterprise in partnership with key stakeholders including: Scottish Government, Universities Scotland and Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. It is partly funded by the European Union.
For more information about the Proof of Concept Programme and Scottish Enterprise please visit: http://www.scottish-enterprise.com/start-your-business/turn-research-into-business/poc.aspx

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