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Scottish company turns whisky waste to car fuel

Alcohol and automobiles?

Combining the two isn’t usually encouraged.

But one Scottish company has done just that – and created a car fuel: biobutanol.

The special ingredients?

Waste products of whisky making.

Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables was founded in 2012.

Since then, founder and president Professor Martin Tangney has been working to expand the company’s remit.

"Our objective is to take in multiple sources of organic waste and convert them into multiple forms of valuable chemicals. And these can be used in a wide variety of applications from painting and lacquers to food additives and hygiene and the ubiquitous handgel that everybody is using. These are all the same sort of chemicals that we produce, but ours are made from sustainable biological sources. And it's growing a circular economy and growing the bio economy."

After a difficult start to the year, the company received a delivery of six 130,000 litre capacity tanks from the Netherlands, which Tangney says will help the company bring the technology to market and build the first biorefinery in Scottish history.

"The factory that we're now building is our first. It will be at commercial scale and will process about 50,000 tons of organic residues a year, mainly from the Scottish whisky industry. But we can process other residues, and it is our ambition to do this. That plant will generate about a million litres a year of sustainable advanced chemicals, which will replace fossil fuel derivatives and play its role in growing a bio economy."

The residues will come from local distilleries keen to cut the 300,000 pounds a year it costs to dispose of the whisky waste residues safely.

To date, Tangney says the company has raised over $39 million in funding and has just launched a Crowdcube funding campaign where members of the public can buy shares in the company.

"Everybody really had a good look at themselves during Covid and the lockdown. And I feel like coming out of this, people realise there is a different world. We can do things differently. And there is a need and a desire to bring in a sustainable bio economy. And that's at the very heart of our Celtic Renewables is trying to do."