Well, maybe not the whisky itself, that would be a waste. However, researchers at Edinburgh Napier University are developing a process to use the byproducts that are usually considered waste to make butanol, a biofuel that gives 30% more power output than ethanol.
The byproducts being used are called "pot ale" and "draff." One is the liquid from the copper stills, and the other is the spent grains. The process being adapted to this new use has been used to make butanol and acetone from fermenting sugars for a hundred years. Now it will use the leftovers of distilling Scotland’s favorite spirit to make a new biofuel, which could be used in cars and aviation.
The team started with materials from Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian. They have already filed for a patent on the process, and plan to create their own company to commercialize their product as well. Not only will their process make butanol, but it will also produce acetone, an important industrial solvent.
Using waste products is more sustainable than growing a whole new crop for the purpose. The new fuel would also help achieve the European Union’s goal of 10% of fuel sales consisting of biofuels by 2020. Dr. Richard Dixon of the World Wildlife Federation is pleased with the progress on this biofuel in particular, because there are others that require processing that is destructive to natural wildlife habitats.
Scotland’s whisky industry is four-billion pounds (more than six-billion dollars) strong and may soon be filling the gas tanks of current cars without the need for engine conversions. So, in only a few years, the whisky industry may be powering cars, as well as Scotland’s economy.