Whisky busi­ness: the fuel pro­pel­ling cars of the fu­ture

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BUSINESS MATTERS - By Han­nah Boland

You must have whisky to give you en­ergy,” Mar­garet Thatcher was known to say in her hey­day. She may have been more right than she knew.

A UK startup yes­ter­day be­came the first com­pany to suc­cess­fully fuel a car us­ing whisky or, more ac­cu­rately, the whisky residue bio­fuel.

“My fin­gers were crossed, I have to con­fess,” Pro­fes­sor Martin Tangney, the founder and pres­i­dent of Celtic Re­new­ables, said. “We phys­i­cally poured a bot­tle of [al­co­hol] bu­tanol into the car, but the scale of this could be huge.”

The whisky bio­fuel is pro­duced us­ing both draff, which are sugar-rich ker­nels of bar­ley used to bring about fer­men­ta­tion in the whisky mak­ing process, and pot ale, the cop­per-con­tain­ing yeasty liq­uid left af­ter dis­till­ing the whisky.

The malt whisky in­dus­try pro­duces nearly 750,000 tonnes of draff and 2bn litres of pot ale each year in Scot­land.

John Tor­rance, the dis­tillery man­ager at Tullibar­dine Dis­tillery in Perthshire which is work­ing with the startup, said: “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 team be­hind the trial of the bio­fuel used a hire car, which had been de­liv­ered ear­lier this week, and had drained the ex­ist­ing fuel from the car the night be­fore the test.

“The test run shows that we know we could make it,” Mr Tangney said. “The blue print just needs to be repli­cated.”

Celtic Re­new­ables is look­ing to build a demon­stra­tion cen­tre within the next 18 months, should it be able to se­cure ad­di­tional fund­ing on top of the £9m fund­ing it re­ceived from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

Mr Tangney said bio­fuel had an im­por­tant role to play in ef­forts to re­duce re­liance upon petrol, and could work in tan­dem with the shift to­wards elec­tric cars.

Ear­lier this week, Volvo an­nounced plans to be­come the first ma­jor car man­u­fac­turer to go all elec­tric by 2019, when ev­ery new car in its range will have an elec­tric power train avail­able.

“Only since the fifties have we be­come this oil-guz­zling na­tion but we won’t re­place oil with a sin­gle thing. We need to pull to­gether ev­ery­thing we can, and elec­tric cars are one way we can [re­duce oil con­sump­tion needs],” Mr Tangney said.

“With elec­tric cars, though, there’s an in­fra­struc­ture net­work needed. For bio­fuel you wouldn’t even know it had been mixed in,” he said.

“You still have to take all the cars off the road be­fore you can go fully elec­tric as well, and, with elec­tric­ity, where is that power com­ing from? How are we go­ing to meet the en­ergy de­mands we’re adding on?”

The UK has com­mit­ted to an EU tar­get of gen­er­at­ing 20pc of all its en­ergy needs from re­new­able sources by 2020 but cur­rently is on track to miss that tar­get.

This would mean it would in­cur mil­lions of pounds in fines from the EU. How­ever, ear­lier this year sources told The Daily Tele­graph that the tar­get, un­der the EU Re­new­able En­ergy Di­rec­tive, looked set to be scrapped af­ter Brexit.

Un­der the Paris cli­mate deal, which US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew from ear­lier this year, the EU is look­ing to in­tro­duce a new tar­get for re­new­able en­ergy to ac­count for 27pc of en­ergy use by 2030.

Pro­fes­sor Martin Tangney.

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