Cars Could Run on Whisky Waste in the Future

Every year, Scotland’s whisky industry produces 1,600 million litres of residual pot ale and 500,000 tonnes of leftover grains, all of which will soon be fermented and converted into fuel for thirsty cars.

Oct 7 2015, 7:00pm

Foto von fronx via Flickr

In addition to getting millions of people wasted, whisky creates a lot of waste.

Every year, Scotland's whisky industry produces 1,600 million litres of residual pot ale and 500,000 tonnes of leftover grains, which could conceivably be "converted into biofuel as a direct substitute for fossil-derived fuel, thereby reducing oil consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, while also providing energy security," according to Celtic Renewables.

READ MORE: Our Future Will Be Powered by Wine

Celtic Renewables may sound like a wicked Glaswegian punk band, but it's actually a company with an ingenious solution to the problem of our over-reliance on fossil fuels. They claim to have found a commercially viable way of powering cars with the leftovers from the onerous process of manufacturing Scotland's amber liquid.

In other words, the same grains that fuel drunken arguments about which Godfather film is superior could one day fuel your car. This may sound a little far-fetched, but Scotland's Department for Transport just gave the company £11million (about $16.8 million US) to set up a that will develop biofuels made from Scottish whisky leftovers.

"In the production of whisky, less than 10 percent of what comes out in the distillery is actually the primary product," said Celtic Renewables founder and President Martin Tangney explained to Reuters. "The bulk of the remainder are these unwanted residuespot ale and barley."

READ MORE: The World's Best Whisky Is Being Sent to the Space Station

But instead of squandering these leftovers, Tangney and his team have found a way to converting the remaining sugars into eco-friendly fuel. "What we can do is combine these two together, create a brand new raw material, apply a different fermentation technology and convert the residual good material in here into high-value products."

The resulting material is—in layman's terms—butanol, a fuel which burns much cleaner than corn or sugarcane-based fuels like ethanol. This technique sounds futuristic, but it's actually a method of fermentation which was used to make munitions during World War I; and eventually abandoned because of dropping petroleum prices at the time. But with the world in dire need of alternatives to fuel made from dinosaur fossils it may be the right time to revive this method of fermentation.

And whisky isn't the only type of booze with fuel potential. A similar project was also undertaken in Australia, looking at the use of wine waste as a biofuel. This might sound like a bunch of nerds looking for a cool side-project involving liquor but the stakes are quite high. By 2020, the International Energy Agency projects that there will be twice as many cars driving around and emitting carbon dioxide, while we slowly deplete our planet.

So the next time you buy a bottle of Scotch, raise a glass to the Celtic Renewables for making your boozing session an environmentally sustainable one, and maybe one day powering your car with the very same grains. Just don't drive your car after.