Irish researcher and biochemistry professor Martin Tangney has found a new and highly potential use for one of Ireland’s favorite products - whiskey. Tangney has discovered that biofuel can be created from the by-products of whiskey.
The Irish Examiner reports that Tangney, a UCC graduate who now works in Scotland at Edinburgh Napier University as a professor of biochemistry, discovered that the by-products draff and pot-ale are suitable as biofuels if they are “harnessed before being converted into energy” during the whiskey making process.
Scotland has a vast resource of these whiskey by-products, most notably at Glemorangie and Glenfiddich. After a number of years of research in the area, Tangney yesterday launched a company for the newly discovered product.
In 2007, Tangney established Britain’s first ever research centre dedicated to biofuel research at Edinburgh Napier University. After years of research, the researcher and professor has branched out to launch the company Celtic Renewables Ltd.
The new company will first focus on working within Scotland’s “€4.8bn malt whisky industry to develop a next-generation biofuel known as bio-butanol, and other renewable chemicals.”
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Bio-butanol, unlike other biofuels, has huge global potential according to researchers. The new biofuel can be used as a direct replacement for petrol, or can be used as a blend and wouldn’t require any engine modification.
“The process we developed can convert the by-products of whisky production [pot ale, the liquid from the copper stills, and draff, the spent grains] into sustainable biofuel — no need for engine modification and no drop off in performance,” say Tangney of the process he helped develop.
In conjunction with Scottish Enterprise, Celtic Renewables Ltd is hoping to get into industrial sized production of bio-butanol. “Each year the industry produces 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 500,000 tons of draff,” reports the Irish Examiner.
Tangey said of the potential for production, “The Scottish malt whisky industry is a ripe resource for developing bio-butanol. The pot ale and draff could be converted into biofuel as a direct substitute for fossil-derived fuel, which would reduce oil consumption and C02 emissions while also providing energy security — particularly in the rural and remote homelands of the whisky industry.”
While Celtic Renewables Ltd is already backed by Scottish programs, Tangney hopes to include Ireland for the manufacturing end of business. “We can tie into large distilleries in Ireland and provide local employment," he says.