Napier scientist unveils fuel made from whisky

Prof Martin Tangney with the first sample of biobutanol. Picture: Ashley Coombes
Prof Martin Tangney with the first sample of biobutanol. Picture: Ashley Coombes
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A SCIENTIST has produced the first commercially viable fuel to be developed from whisky by-products.

Professor Martin Tangney, director of Napier University’s biofuel research centre, has produced an advanced biofuel called biobutanol, which could provide an alternative to oil for car and aviation fuel, as well as other technologies.

Whisky accounts for just 10 per cent of the material produced in distilleries, with the remaining biological raw materials disposed of at a cost to the industry.

Prof Tangney has set up a business called Celtic Renewables which will take those by-products and turn them into fuel. He unveiled the first ­samples of biobutanol at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh.

“The underlying technology that we use in this process is ­actually 100 years old,” he said.

“It’s fermentation known as the ABE fermentation, which was developed in the UK mainly to produce acetone for explosives in the First World War, and by the end of the Second World War it was the second-biggest biological process that the world had seen.

“It died out in the 1960s because it couldn’t compete with the petrochemical industry as a source of these chemicals.”

Biobutanol could extend the life of the UK’s finite oil fields by providing a fuel substitute, ­according to Prof Tangney.

“You should really look at ­butanol as being a like-for-like substitute for oil,” he said.

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