Sunday, November 11, 2012


It sounds far fetched when a whiskey manufacturing company proclaims that the waste products from his distillery can save precious food and help the world to meet future food problems! Before outright ridiculing of this claim it is rational to look into the basis of the claim and see whether there is some substance in it. According to these innovators, the industrial waste generated during the manufacture of whiskey has sufficient residual energy left, to make Butanol, a valued fuel, considered better than ethyl alcohol. While generating Butanol can be a profitable activity, it also solves the problem of waste disposal and pollution potential of these wastes incurring heavy cost to the distilleries. The product aptly named Biobutanol has been found to be more energy dense and can be used more easily in blends with gasoline. Since it is still in the development stage, only future will tell whether it is economically feasible. Here is a take on this new development that is exciting for the automobile industry. 

"Can whisky help solve the world's shortages of both food and fuel? A team of scientists in Scotland is banking on it. The people behind Celtic Renewables have invested five years of research and now a business venture in the idea that the waste products from whisky distilleries can be converted into biofuel to power cars and trucks. Mark Simmers, CEO of the company founded last year, says the biobutanol Celtic Renewables makes from whisky waste is not only better suited to use as vehicle fuel than the bioethanol commonly pumped now, but it also dodges the food vs. fuel quandary facing the biofuel industry at large.  Speaking from the whisky capital of the world, Simmers said there were two things driving him and his colleagues - who started out researching the whisky waste-to fuel idea at Edinburgh Napier University: finding a "large, guaranteed feedstock that is not food," and also finding a reliable, cheap, local source of fuel for vehicles in remote parts of Scotland where gas is expensive. Simmers describes biobutanol as an "advanced" biofuel compared to bioethanol. It can be used in any unmodified vehicle on the road, where bioethanol requires some modifications. Butanol also mixes better at a chemical level with conventional petroleum products, meaning a higher ratio of biofuel to petroleum can be used when mixing gas for consumers at the pump. The other big plus, as mentioned above, is that no corn or other crops are needed to produce the whisky-waste biobutanol. One of the biggest challenges to the biofuel industry comes from organizations fighting its production on the grounds that farmland in poor nations - where cheap food is in short supply - is being used to grow crops expressly for biofuel production, which pays better than food production. Celtic Renewables is still in the trial phase of its production, but it hopes to be producing biobutanol for the commercial market by the end of next year".

According to estimates Scotland, the Mecca of Scotch of Whiskey generates about 1.6 billion liters of Pot ale and 1, 87, 000 tons of Draft, both wastes from the distillation line which can be useful in making Biobutanol. This development is all the more interesting considering that in most countries valuable food commodities are diverted to make Bioethanol for blending with gasoline and there is substantial opposition world wide against such "misuse" of food items for non-food purpose. If Biobutanol production is found to be sustainable and economically viable, large quantities of Corn now being used for making Bioalcohol can be better used for feeding millions of hungry people, especially in the African continent. Auto industry should be happy because Biobutanol has much better physical characteristics than ethanol in terms of blending and energy content.


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