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  (Source: Dreamworks)

Scotland produces over 150M liters of Scotch whisky a year. Currently the production byproducts are thrown out, but soon they could be used to produce hundreds of thousands of barrels of butanol biofuel.  (Source: Jaggederest)
Pour yourself a nice cool glass of whisky biofuel, it's been a long day

The Scottish may have struck on a brilliant idea of how to apply their favorite alcoholic drink -- whisky -- to improving the auto industry.

Scotch whisky, Scotland's drink of choice, is renowned worldwide for its smooth taste and full flavor.  Scotland produces approximately 150M liters of the spirit yearly.  That production earns Scotland over $6.24B USD annually.

That production leads to a lot of byproducts -- which largely are discarded.  Researchers at the Edinburgh Napier University have cooked up a method to end that waste, instead turning two of the main byproducts -- "pot ale", the liquid from the copper stills, and "draff", the spent grains – into biofuels.

The team used samples from Glenkinchie Distillery to test their process.  The new process produces butanol instead of the much-maligned ethanol biofuel.  Butanol is generally considered a more useful biofuel as, unlike ethanol, it can be free blended into gasoline at any ratio without special engine considerations.  It delivers 30 percent more power by volume than ethanol, as well.  And it's the starting point to producing many useful chemicals, such as the industrial solvent acetone.

The team adapted a 100-year-old technique used to make butanol and acetone from sugar.  They've patented their refined method and created a startup to market the technology.

Professor Martin Tangney, who led the project, says it will play a critical role in helping Scotland, England, and the rest of the United Kingdom meet the European Union's 2020 target for biofuels to account for 10 percent of total fuel sales (similar to mandates in the U.S.).  He states, "What people need to do is stop thinking 'either or'; people need to stop thinking like for like substitution for oil. That's not going to happen. Different things will be needed in different countries. Electric cars will play some role in the market, taking cars off the road could be one of the most important things we ever do."

Assuming the researchers can get a liter of biofuel per liter of whisky produced (which may be a reasonable assumption as production waste far outweighs the current product), the industry could eventually produce almost 1M barrels of butanol per year (there's 158 liters in a standard barrel of oil).  Mass adoption seems feasible, given that there are only around 100 refineries in Scotland.  The UK (as a whole) uses about 1.8M barrels of oil a day, so this still would only be a small contribution, albeit a significant one.

Dr. Richard Dixon, of WWF Scotland, cheered the news, stating, "The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife," he said. "So whisky powered-cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels."

For Scotland it might finally be a good idea to have "one for the road" -- in whisky biofuel, that is.



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Tax Subsidies
By mandrews on 8/18/2010 8:53:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Assuming the researchers can get a liter of biofuel per liter of whiskey produced (which may be a reasonable assumption as production waste far outweighs the current product), the industry could eventually produce almost 1M barrels of butanol per year (there's 158 liters in a standard barrel of oil).


That's overly optimistic. And let's say your prediction holds true. What's that, 0.17 percent of England's yearly fuel consumption? And how much did it cost to implement the specialized harvesting and refining equipment.

quote:
Professor Martin Tangney, who led the project, says it will play a critical role in helping Scotland, England, and the rest of the United Kingdom meet the European Union's 2020 target for biofuels to account for 10 percent of total fuel sales (similar to mandates in the U.S.)


How gracious of politicians to decide for us what fuel to buy.

How about instead we remove the braces and let's see if this industry can stand on its own.

If not, what good does mandating biofuels do? We have plentiful oil supplies for near term and have advanced nuclear for the long term. Biofuels make little sense -- especially when you consider that many of them actually emit more carbon pollution through their lifecycle than fossil fuels.




RE: Tax Subsidies
By marvdmartian on 8/18/2010 9:06:34 AM , Rating: 2
It still beats the snot out of the USA's ethanol production lobbying, which has converted land which used to be used for food production crops over to land used for ethanol production (corn) crops, to the detriment of everyone. Now food prices are up, across the board, and we're supporting an industry that no one wants to use the end product from.

Ethanol costs as much as gasoline, only because of the tax breaks they get for producing it, and gives about 2/3 the energy output. So why the heck would anyone want to use it? Yet we still continue to push this product on the consumers, thanks to the strong lobby that the farmers have going for them.

Give me butanol, any day.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By MarcLeFou on 8/18/2010 10:06:35 AM , Rating: 3
Yes. Because any breakthrough in any field has to replace the whole industry it's aiming to improve overnight.

There's no such thing as multi-faceted solutions and ramping up of production to get better yield and lower costs.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By mandrews on 8/18/2010 11:07:39 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yes. Because any breakthrough in any field has to replace the whole industry it's aiming to improve overnight.

There's no such thing as multi-faceted solutions and ramping up of production to get better yield and lower costs.


You totally misunderstood my post.

To be clear I'm perfectly fine with this research. Granted, I think it'd be better to spend the money looking into clean nuclear technology, but perhaps it works with the local economy.

What bothers me specifically is that the early commercialization of this process is being driven by taxpayer funded subsidies.

Maybe you're happy with the U.S. and EU governments taking your hard earned money to pay for ethanol and butanol biofuels, but I'm certainly not. The tax incentives are the issue here, not the research itself.

If the business can stand on its own let it -- I'd be perfectly fine with that.

Fuel targets are troublesome, beasts, though. After all, if the government gets to tell us what kind of fuel we should buy, why stop there? Why not tell us we can't take any vacation over 50 miles? Why not tell us that we can only work 10 miles from our home? Government regulation is a slippery slope.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By Iaiken on 8/18/2010 12:15:03 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for demonstrating that you have no idea what a "national interest" is.

The nuclear industry of Canada has continued to advance the design of the CANDU reactor (now on it's 6th generation) largely with the help of the government here. This technology has since been licensed to allied nations and allowed the government to recoup much of its investment in nuclear power at home.

No company in Canada exists that could have pulled this off without such assistance from the government(which would ultimately have complete control over the export of this technology anyway). Even the proposition of building a single nuclear station is daunting without the long-term, extremely-low interest loans provided by government finance.

Lastly, this has allowed Canada to take a position as the (almost exclusive) world leader in the production of nuclear medicine (2/3 of the worlds supply comes from Chalk River, Ontario).


RE: Tax Subsidies
By MarcLeFou on 8/18/2010 1:04:18 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair however, Chalk River reopened this morning for the first time in 15 months.

It's old and outdated.

As to the point about governement subsidies, all industries receive R&D credits.

Turning unusable ressources into something commercially viable is always something I'll be interested in funding as long as the end product can make sense economically.

And I think this can since this has many advantages over ethanol, mainly higher energy density and more uses than just fuel (industrial uses).

I'm vehemently opposed to the corn ethanol subsidies because not only they don't make economic sense but they're using up valuable ressources to produce instead of using waste like cellulosic ethanol or this process.

I have no issue with initial R&D sponsored by the governement but you're right that the technology has to stand on its own sooner rather than later.

Every investment by the governement should be a simple business equation : what's my ROI ? Or have SIGNIFICANT other advantages like national security but I don't really consider that a subsidy anymore but government spending which should be kept to a minimum.

Within that mindset, I have no issues with governement subsidies.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By MarcLeFou on 8/18/2010 1:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
Plus I see no mention of governement subsidies here.

They talk about regulation affecting their business but I see no mention of subsidies anywhere. This is university funded research and has resulted in the creation of a business.

Capitalism at its finest if you ask me.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2010 4:05:15 PM , Rating: 1
I don't see where he speaks out against government involvement in researching technologies. Just government subsidies to deploy technology before its able to compete on its own so its more able to compete.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By Iaiken on 8/18/2010 11:30:29 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
We have plentiful oil supplies for near term and have advanced nuclear for the long term.


You Silly Willy, you actually think that you'll be able to build advanced nuclear stations in the US WITHOUT government mandate? The last license was handed out in 1976 and that reactor was only completed in 1996. Even if you were able to get a license today, the damned thing wouldn't be online until 2030 (optimistic) or 2040 (realistic).

Add that US nuclear designs are about 30 years behind the rest of the world and the possibility of more nukes in the US grows even more dismal. The US gave up the mantel of leadership in the field of nuclear energy to Canada, France, Japan and China almost 20 years ago and has no intention of reclaiming it.

Without collaboration with the above nations AND intervention on behalf of nuclear energy by the US government, I am afraid that the US nuclear power industry is in no position to help meet the energy needs of tomorrow.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2010 11:59:55 AM , Rating: 2
Yes and why is that? Environmental organizations being given the right to sue on our behalf. A right that needs to be taken away. But this liberal government sure as hell isn't going to do it.


RE: Tax Subsidies
By BikeDude on 8/19/2010 10:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
especially when you consider that many of them actually emit more carbon pollution through their lifecycle than fossil fuels.


How?

With fossil fuels, if the end result is not comprised of CO2 in its entirety, there's also nasty NOx and SO2 emissions.

If you look at sugar canes produced in Brazil, used within Brazil, the sugar canes consume CO2 while growing. The end result would be roughly 0 extra CO2. (and a proper engine would produce very little, if any, NOx and SO2 gases/particles) The only problem is oil based fertilizers and pesticides I guess, but Brazil doesn't import that much oil AFAIK.

Corn-based ethanol in the US is a completely different venture, but in the end you still reduce reliance on oil from dodgy countries.


whiskey byproduct?
By smackababy on 8/18/2010 10:06:43 AM , Rating: 2
you mean violence? sweet!




RE: whiskey byproduct?
By CurseTheSky on 8/18/2010 10:19:25 AM , Rating: 2
Or babies...

Oh crap, I think I just figured it out... It's a secret scam to use HUMANS for FUEL!

Soylent Green is people!


RE: whiskey byproduct?
By phitzl on 8/18/2010 3:41:28 PM , Rating: 2
here I was hoping my wicked hangover would be good for something...thanks for nothing, Scinece.


Alcohol solves any problem.
By DeathBooger on 8/18/2010 9:31:29 AM , Rating: 2
I am now comfortable with contributing to this whole green movement BS.




"nice cool glass of whiskey"
By funkyd99 on 8/18/2010 11:22:17 AM , Rating: 2
...you can save the rocks for your vodka lemonade.




Doin' work
By wiz220 on 8/18/2010 11:45:39 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They've patented their refined method and created a startup to market the technology.


Whoa, whoa, whoa....whoa. Haven't the Irish learned anything?? You don't patent something to actually produce a product. You patent something to sit back, wait for other people to do the work for you, and then SUE them to make money from your ingenious idea. These guys need a serious refresher course on contemporary patent law and practices.




musha ring dumma do damma da
By sprockkets on 8/18/2010 2:50:29 PM , Rating: 2
whack for the daddy 'ol
whack for the daddy 'ol
there's Whiskey in the Car!




Spelling
By ahar on 8/18/2010 2:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
They spell lovely scotchy scotch scotch "Whisky" in Scotland.




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