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Whiskey Byproducts Could Produce Next Big Biofuel

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Researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have patented a process to produce biobutanol, a fuel that can be used in existing gasoline engines without any modifications, from whiskey by-products. In utilizing waste products, the process eliminates the need to use arable land and food crops to produce a more sustainable fuel.
The team at Napier Biofuel Research Center focused their efforts on pot ale, the liquid left over in copper stills after whisky fermentation, and draff, the spent barley left over from the malting process, as whisky production, the largest biological process in the UK, produces large quantities of these waste products.    
Scotland's malt whisky industry produces 1600 million liters/year of pot ale and 187,000 tons/year of draff. Samples of the two substances were provided by Diageo's Glenkinchie Distillery.   
"While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them. This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one of Scotland's biggest industries. We've worked with some of the country's leading whisky producers to develop the process," says Martin Tangney, director of the Biofuel Research Center.
The process has currently only been tested in 5 liter vessels, but the researchers' next step will be to scale the process up to vessels of 100 l. The university is planning to set up a spin-out company to commercialize the process.


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