Celtic Renewables, founded by Irish scientist Martin Tangney, has become the first company in the world to produce biofuel capable of powering cars from residues of the whiskey industry.
Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables now plans to build a production facility in central Scotland after manufacturing the first samples of bio-butanol from the by-products of whiskey fermentation.
Prof Martin Tangney, a graduate of University College Cork and Trinity College Dublin, said the unveiling of the first sample of biofuel, produced from whiskey by-products, was a proud moment for everyone involved.
“We have successfully taken a defunct technology and adapted it to current market conditions, attracting the investment and partners required to scale-up to industrial production and prove that this works at scale. This historic sample could herald a new era in sustainable biofuel,” he said. Prof Tangney believes the sample could kick start a UK industry potentially worth over €1.3 million a year.
The company, a spin-out company from the Biofuel Research Centre (BfRC) at Edinburgh Napier University, has spent the last year developing its process at industrial scale in Belgium. In partnership with the Ghent-based BioBase Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP), it produced the first samples of bio-butanol from waste using a process called the Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol (ABE) fermentation earlier this month.
The ABE fermentation was first developed in the UK a century ago, but died out in competition with the petrochemical industry. However, bio-butanol is now recognised as an advanced biofuel, a direct replacement for petrol. Celtic Renewable is proposing to reintroduce the process to Europe for the first time since the 1960s, using the millions of tonnes of annual whiskey production residues as their unique raw material.