A new round of funding has put whisky-powered cars a step closer to becoming a reality in the UK.
Following a £1.2m cash injection, including more than £800,000 from the UK Government, Edinburgh-based biofuel company Celtic Renewables is planning to build a facility in Scotland which will turn whisky by-products into biofuel that can power current vehicles.
The funding has also allowed Celtic Renewables to develop its technology at Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP) in Ghent, having signed an agreement with Europe’s biotechnology pilot facility to undergo next-stage testing of the new process.
The technology involves producing biobutanol 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 yeasty liquid that is heated during distillation.
It will spend the next few months seeking to replicate work done in its Scottish laboratory at an industrial scale.
Celtic Renewables is the first company to trial biobutanol technology at the Belgian demonstrator pilot facility and also the first Scottish company to sign a partnership with BBEPP.
Established by the EU to enable the development of a sustainable biobased economy, BBEPP was established to support the advancement of sustainable biobased processes that cut reliance on non-replaceable fossil fuels.
Professor Martin Tangney, founder and president of Celtic Renewables, said the latest developments demonstrated the commitment of government and industry partners to help it meet its ambition to become a groundbreaking company, based in Scotland, with global reach.
“Our ambition to grow a sustainable, international industry from Scotland requires strong partnerships and we are delighted to be working with BioBase Europe Pilot Plant, to help us complete the next, crucial stage in our development,” he said.
Professor Wim Soetaert, CEO of the BBEPP, said: “The transition from the current fossil-based economy towards a biobased economy is essential for industrial sustainability throughout Europe.
“Biobased production is already transforming a broad range of industries around the world and Celtic Renewables, making advanced biofuel and sustainable chemicals from whisky by-products, is exactly the kind of inspired innovation that our BBEPP is designed to support.”
The work done by Celtic Renewables at the facility should facilitate the production of the world’s first industrial samples of biobutanol derived from whisky production residues, allowing it to be used as a direct replacement for petrol and diesel, without the need to modify engines.
The second-round investment comprised £410,000 in private equity investment and £800,000 from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) at Westminster.
BBEPP’s Professor Wim Soetaert (left) and Professor Martin Tangney, founder of Celtic Renewables, sign the agreement