Car fuel made from whisky coming: and could reach India

Drinking and driving famously do not mix – or do they? A Scottish company has successfully test-driven the world's first car running on a biofuel made from whisky residue. And the fuel could be tested in India soon.

Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables has developed a process to manufacture the biofuel biobutanol from draff and pot ale - barley kernels and a yeasty liquid that are produced when whisky is made and then usually thrown away.

Biobutanol is a new type of sustainable fuel and is designed to be a direct replacement for petrol and diesel. It is produced from draff, the sugar-rich kernels of barley that are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process necessary for whisky production.

The other main ingredient is pot ale, the copper-containing yeasty liquid that is left over following distillation.

Unlike other biofuels, biobutanol can be used as a direct replacement for road fuels such as petrol or diesel and it can be used in cars without the need for engine modification.

Celtic Renewables founder and president Professor Martin Tangney said the residue was of no value whatsoever to the whisky industry.

After successfully testing the fuel in a Ford Fiesta, he said: ''What we developed was a process to combine the liquid with the solid, and used an entirely different traditional fermentation process called ABE, and it makes the chemical called biobutanol. And that is a direct replacement, here and now, for petrol. This is the first time in history a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whisky production residues.

''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.''

Tangney said that Celtic would get inexpensive or free raw materials from Tullibardine, the distillery it works with, who were keen to cut the £300,000 ($386,370.00) a year it costs to dispose of the whisky waste residues.

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.''

The Edinburgh-based company recently received a £9 million grant from the Scottish government and funds from other investors to build a commercial demonstrator plant in Grangemouth, near Falkirk, that will be fully operational by 2019.

Almost 750,000 tonnes of draff and two billion litres of pot ale are produced by the malt whisky industry in Scotland every year. The fuel creators believe their whisky biofuel has huge global potential, and could create an industry in Scotland worth £100 million.

But they will also be targeting other whisky-producing countries, such as Japan, India and the US.

Tangney said that a desire to effectively manage resources had inspired him to pursue the project.

"What I did was I look at this as a business innovation as much as a technical innovation and thought: 'if 70 per cent of the cost of production is coming from the raw materials – why not tackle that end of it?'" he told Reuters by telephone on Friday.

Tangney showed the new fuel's efficiency by driving a rental car filled with the mixture around the university's car park this week.

Biobutanol also has an advantage over other biofuels. More of it can be included in consumer petrol - as much as 15 per cent - without requiring engine modifications.

With the raw material available throughout Scotland, Tangney estimates it could eventually produce 50 million litre of biofuel each year.

"The whisky industry will now have a sustainable and reliable way of disposing of their residue," Tangney said. "Plus we'll create a brand new industry out of something that has no value whatsoever."