By on August 17, 2010

No, it’s not a Mel Gibson joke… Scientists at Edinburgh Napier University have developed a formula for making butanol biofuel out of byproducts of the Scottish whiskey industry, reports Sky News. Apparently researchers

combined so-called pot ale – the liquid from the copper stills distillery equipment – and the spent grains used to make whisky, also known as draff

to create Butanol, an ethanol-like biofuel. Unlike the corn juice, however, Butanol can run in any gas-powered engine and does not degrade components over time.

Scotland’s whiskey industry produces 1,600 million liters of pot ale and 187,000 tons of draff, but scientists aren’t revealing how much of each ingredient is needed to produce a given amount of biofuel. Though it’s clear that the Scotch butanol won’t take over the world (barring some kind of brilliant cross-marketing scheme), it’s a solid, pragmatic local energy solution. The Scots can enjoy reduced-guilt internal combustion transportation, the rest of the world can enjoy their delicious local beverage, and some very lucky draff gets to become an ingredient in two of life’s greatest pleasures. What more could anyone ask for?

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14 Comments on “Regular, Premium Or Single-Malt?...”

  • avatar

    Interesting idea. Implementation though, is always the problem…

  • avatar
    Jeff Semenak

    The exhaust should be… intoxicating.

  • avatar

    Uh,this is awesome!

  • avatar

    I’ll put money on some drunkard Scot attempting to drink this whiskey based Butanol for ‘a laugh’ and ending up being rather ill.
    No, I’m not biased against the Scots; I am one.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I doubt that they are gassifying and re-synthesizing, the pot ale and the draff, so I am guessing they use one of the bacterial processes in which the bacteria digest and ferment the left overs and excrete butanol as a by-product.

    Butanol is an excellent fuel for ICEs. It is high octane, denser than ethanol or methanol, and not as hygroscopic. It has gotten very little attention in the US because the tax credits are only for ethanol.

    I doubt that the quantities of distilling leftovers in Scotland would be large enough for this type of process to make a material difference in their fuel use.

    • 0 avatar

      I doubt that the quantities of distilling leftovers in Scotland would be large enough for this type of process to make a material difference in their fuel use.

      Probably not for our cars no, but there are still parts of the Highlands and Islands with no mains electricity where the use of ICE electric generators is common practice, shipping petroleum based fuels to remote corners of Scotland increases the (already high) cost, so a locally sourced alternative could be big news for this market. If that took off I’d expect to see it spun off into the (small) local automotive fuel market as well.

      So it depends how you define “material difference” – globally, no it probably won’t make a blip, but we’re a small country… For Scotland in terms of weening ourselves off this unsustainable mono-fuel economy this could well turn out to be a worthwhile “piece of the puzzle”, and (as with wind and wave power) could also give us a valuable (read: saleable) skill base in an emerging market to boot.

      Or it could come to nothing. In which case at least we’ll still have the whisky! Win win if you ask me

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      I would trade all the oil in Arabia for the single malts of the Isles.

  • avatar

    Maybe if the whole world switched from drinking coffee to drinking scotch? No?


  • avatar

    Holy Old News Batman!

    Butanol has been around for, well, forever, in terms of altfuel.

    • 0 avatar

      The story does not claim butanol is new. It reports a newly-developed method for making it from brewery leftovers which would otherwise be discarded as a waste product.

  • avatar

    Butanol, an ethanol-like biofuel

    It’s only “ethanol-like” in that they are both alcohols. It’s been almost 40 years since I had a chem class, but I’m pretty sure that ethanol is ethane with one of the Hydrogen atoms replaced with the hydroxyl group (OH) common to alcohols. Butanol is the alcohol of butane. Since it has an additional carbon atom, there’s more available energy in butanol than in ethanol. The DuPont company is a major backer of butanol fuel – they have some kind of proprietary process for making it.

    Ethane – C3H6
    Ethanol – C3H5OH
    Butane – C4H10
    Butanol – C3H9OH

    • 0 avatar

      Very close. Ethane–C2H6, Ethanol–C2H5OH, Butanol–C4H9OH

      As I’ve passed on to my kids from my high school chem teacher: Monkeys, Eat, Peeled, Bananas (meth = 1, eth = 2, prop = 3, but = 4).

  • avatar

    This story reminds me of the Scotsman seeing his first baseball game and his remarks upon hearing that a batter had 4 balls.

    Paraphrasing here…

    Does your sportscar really run on scotch?

    Run? It runs with pride, man, it runs with pride!

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