Just because you shouldn’t drink and drive, doesn’t mean your 4-wheel babe can’t take one for the road. IOL recently reported that a Scottish scientist developed fuel from whiskey waste – a premium blend that could drive the future of renewable energy.

How do you turn whiskey waste into fuel?

Whiskey is made by mashing grains and yeast together. The mix vaporises and eventually turns into alcohol, or your favourite whiskey on the rocks. The vaporised liquid is put to good use, but the rest of the mix usually goes down the drain. Some whiskey distilleries pay over R60 million per year to dispose of their whiskey waste.

A company based in Edinburgh, Celtic Renewables, has researched and developed a process to manufacture biofuel from the leftover grains and liquid in the whiskey making process. The waste produces a biofuel called butanol, which is an alcohol that can be pumped directly into cars without any adjustments to their engines.

The developing scientists say that 10% of butanol can be added to other fuel like diesel. It might not seem like much, but it all adds up.


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Professor Martin Tangney, the founder of Celtic Renewables, tested the fuel in 2017. He presented the new fuel’s efficiency by driving a car filled with the mixture around the car park at Edinburgh Napier University.

It has been a smooth ride from there as the company has raised over R636 million in funding to build the first biorefinery in Scottish history. The new plant is expected to be up and running in 2021, and will process around 50,000 tonnes of waste each year from the whiskey industry – eventually making a whopping 50 million litres of biofuel each year.

Professor Tangney hopes to expand the company globally. He says, “In building this first bio-refinery, it will be a major achievement for the company and for the country. But that’s the start of our story, not the end. Our real ambition is to take this at a much bigger scale and build factories like this all over Scotland, all over the UK and all over the world.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that South Africa will follow in Scotland’s low carbon footprints. The country’s roadsters could do with a whiskey or three to handle our potholes better.

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