Could your car get tanked up on whisky?

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Whisky tastingDanny Lawson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Scientists in Scotland have come up with an unusual solution to the high price of petrol: a whisky distiller in Perthshire and scientists from Edinburgh are making fuel from the leftovers of whisky production.

So how does it work?


The project

The project is being run by Celtic Renewables, a company that has spun out from Napier University in Edinburgh. They have signed a contract with the Tullibardine distillery in Blackford, Perthshire, to use the leftovers from the distilling process to make fuel.

Byproducts account for about 97% of everything that comes out of a distillery. They are very high in sugar, and are currently sold for fertiliser and cattle feed - or the distillery has to pay to have it taken away. This particular distillery estimates that it usually spends around £250,000 disposing of it every year.


Douglas Ross, the managing director of Tullibardine, said: "It takes a cost to us and turns it into something that has social as well as commercial value."

In this process the scientists feed bacteria to byproducts, which produces butanol. This is what will fuel the vehicles. It can be used as a direct replacement for petrol, and unlike ethanol does not need to be blended with petrol to work.

Success?

The company behind the development reckons it could end up becoming a £60 million industry for Scotland. Of course, whether this becomes a massive and thriving industry or stays an interesting scientific experiment will depend on whether it can be produced on a commercial scale - and if it can, what the end product will cost.

A spokesman for the company told AOL: "It's difficult to say what the cost will be. It has passed through the proof of concept stage, and now they are testing whether it can be produced on an industrial scale at a facility in Redcar. We will know the outcome of those tests in a couple of months, although the initial results look promising."

If this stage is successful, he says: "It is a case of commercialising the process, and understanding the costs of production and the costs of the raw materials. At the moment they are a byproduct of whisky distillery and the producers are happy just to have that cost removed. If it became a thriving industry, then a market value would be attached to it, and this would become a cost."

There's also no indication, of course, as to whether any commercially viable product would then be taxed to the hilt just as petrol is.

It seems, therefore, that it's too early to say whether this is going to take off. Of course, it's never to early for the wags to start the jokes about getting the car tanked up, needing a breathalyser for the car as well as the driver, or popping to the pub to fill up the car.

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