Pardon? A car that runs on whisky? Well not exactly, but one firm is looking at what could be the nearest thing to it. Celtic Renewables has developed a new process that will make a biofuel from the remains used in the whisky production process.
During the entire whisky production process the finished article represents about 7 or 8% of what is actually used. The rest is referred to as ‘by-product’, ‘residue’, or simply waste. There are literally hundreds of thousands of tonnes a year of the spent barley kernels, which is known as draff, and billions of litres of liquid, called pot ale. Both of these substances are rich in sugars, but unfortunately they are the wrong kind of sugars for whisky. However, the new process mixes the two substances and feeds it to a special type of bacteria (clostrifium if you are that interested). The result of this is a fuel that can go straight into a petrol tank without any modifications having to made to the car itself.
The process has proven to be a big success in the laboratory and now it is to be tested on a bigger industrial scale at the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant in Ghent, in Belgium, with all normal safety procedures and equipment as a normal fuel plant. If the pilot scheme is successful then the next stage would be to build its first commercial demonstration plant in Scotland, and if they need someone with coveralls and a hard hat as chief tester, or is that taster, I can make myself available.
All European countries have signed a mandate that 10% of all fuels sold must be biofuel by 2020. Some of this will come from existing crop sources, but it is hoped that as much as possible will be manufactured using waste and residues. If successful the industry could be worth as much as £100 million per year, and once the first plant is built it will process industrial scale samples within months of starting, so the whisky powered car might not be that far away.