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whiskey biofuel
August 18, 2010 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Scottish researchers have developed what they call a “super” biofuel using by-products of whiskey production. Given the enormity of Scotland’s £4 billion ($6 billion) whiskey industry, scientists say there is the potential for whiskey biofuel to emerge as a significant source of fuel for cars and even airplanes.
posted by stbalbach (40 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, whiskey, is there anything you can't do?
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:41 PM on August 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


My Rolls only drinks single-malt.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:41 PM on August 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


In all seriousness, though, Scotland is full of drunks.
posted by swift at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, it occurs to me: the best part of this £260,000 research project must have been the line item in the grant proposal to buy all the whiskey. I'm now jealous of these scientists on at least three different levels.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2010


I'll toast to that. *clink*
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2010


I would like to endorse this research, in anticipation of the day when single malt whisky is the cheap, plentiful by-product of fuel.

Also I would like my car to smell like peat, smoke and booze.
posted by notionoriety at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


Er, drink to that. *clink* Maybe too many *clinks* tonight.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2010


Alcohol vaporware
posted by DU at 6:44 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


We were on Islay earlier this year, where "tourism [is] largely based on whisky and birdwatching," which is exactly why we went. From what we heard on the distillery tours we went on (we only managed four of the eight, so I guess we'll have to go back), the draffs from Islay distilleries is used as cattle feed.

I am happy that whisky can be even more useful.
posted by rtha at 6:47 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they are talking about Scotch, it would be whisky, no 'e.'
posted by fixedgear at 6:48 PM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a wagon.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:49 PM on August 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


.kobayashi.: "Also, it occurs to me: the best part of this £260,000 research project must have been the line item in the grant proposal to buy all the whiskey. I'm now jealous of these scientists on at least three different levels."

"As part of their research, the centre was provided with samples of whisky distilling by-products from Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery. "

So it's just that "...it uses the two main by-products of the whisky production process – ‘pot ale’, the liquid from the copper stills, and ‘draff’, the spent grains, as the basis for producing the butanol that can then be used as fuel."
posted by lazaruslong at 6:50 PM on August 18, 2010


But seriously though. "Whisky by-products" are going to be cellulose-rich and glucose-poor. If we had a good method to turn cellulose into fuel we wouldn't need to do it via whisky--we could just use algae, bamboo or some other fast-growing plant.
posted by DU at 6:52 PM on August 18, 2010


Ah, whisky, the solution to and cause of all life's problems.

(h/t Homer)
posted by docgonzo at 6:59 PM on August 18, 2010


You'll want some to full up the lighter you use to smoke the cigar that goes with your whiskey.
posted by bwg at 7:00 PM on August 18, 2010


lazaruslong: Yes, I saw that sentence, but chose to focus on the word "part." In the world I like to imagine, scientists clever enough to figure this out are also clever enough to be able put a request for little whiskey in their grant application. You know, for some other part of the research.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:01 PM on August 18, 2010


Er ... fill up. Damned 'u' key.
posted by bwg at 7:01 PM on August 18, 2010


Minus points for not using "biofuels galore" as a title.
posted by Artw at 7:09 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


DU: "But seriously though. "Whisky by-products" are going to be cellulose-rich and glucose-poor. If we had a good method to turn cellulose into fuel we wouldn't need to do it via whisky--we could just use algae, bamboo or some other fast-growing plant."

Looks like the production of biobutanol is a result of ABE Fermentation. They used to use potato and other stuff. It also gave rise to good solvents.

However, in the 1960's, the "rise of the petrochemical industry provided a competitive source of solvents. This, coupled with increasing feedstock costs, led to the demise of the ABE industry in UK and USA. "

So what they've done is figure out a way to use the byproducts of whiskey distillation to make butanol, "based on a 100-year-old process that was originally developed to produce butanol and acetone by fermenting sugar."

And since it uses those byproducts instead of feedstock designated for the purpose, and there's a shitload of whisky by-products ("...1,600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tonnes of draff produced by the malt whisky industry annually"), it could actually be a good thing.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:12 PM on August 18, 2010


But seriously though. "Whisky by-products" are going to be cellulose-rich and glucose-poor. If we had a good method to turn cellulose into fuel we wouldn't need to do it via whisky--we could just use algae, bamboo or some other fast-growing plant.

It looks like they hydrolyze the cellulosic mass chemically, then use Clostridium (probably acetobutylicum) to ferment the resulting mixture of 5- and 6-carbon sugars to solvents. Probably the real advances are in the implementation details, since the technology itself isn't that new, I think.

Also, using already-generated "waste" seems like it would be way preferable, since it doesn't require new algae or bamboo farms. Algae at least doesn't compete so much with other land uses, like crop farming, but it still needs open water space that would have to be cultivated and/or artificially created.

(on preview, agreeing with lazaruslong)
posted by en forme de poire at 7:14 PM on August 18, 2010


No true Scotsman would desecrate whiskey by pouring it in a fuel tank.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:15 PM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, a university press release? Really? It's not even new-scientist level.

There are a ton of different ways to make biofuel. There's only one question that matters: COST. The fact that this is made from whisky byproducts is irrelevant. In fact, fuel that's made from the byproducts of anything is never going to be anything beyond a niche player. After all, people use a lot more gasoline then they do whisky. People come up with new niche biofuels all the time. The cost question comes into play when all the byproducts are being used. How much does it end up costing when you're producing the stuff just for itself.

---

Also, the Energy equation with ethanol is a little tricky when you're dealing with a combustion engine. My understanding is that Ethanol also contains some water, and so when you actually do the combustion some of that water phase changes into steam, which results in the engine producing more force, as opposed to heat. In other words, even though the ethanol has less energy, engines burning ethanol are more efficient.

---

On the other hand, we need to be innovative and look for efficiencies where we can find them. If there's usable energy in these byproducts, converting them to fuel is a better then dumping them.
posted by delmoi at 7:19 PM on August 18, 2010


One sip for my car...one sip for me...two sips for my carrr...tooo sipps for mmeee...tree fips sor my carrr...phree fipbs sorr mmee......
posted by Increase at 7:23 PM on August 18, 2010


Increase: Butanol is luckily not that toxic, you'd need to drink half a litre of the stuff before you started getting uncomfortably above the LD50 values for an average person. However, it probably would not be as pleasant as drinking a fine single malt scotch. For more information, let's ask the good people at Dow chemicals. Dow, because hey, it seemed like a good idea before we knew what the consequences were.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:50 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is is where drinking and driving becomes good for the environment?
posted by hal_c_on at 8:01 PM on August 18, 2010


I'm with fixedgear and against everyone else. They must have found the energy in that extraneous e, which everyone knows equals mc2 anyway.
posted by yerfatma at 8:04 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Given the enormity of Scotland’s £4 billion ($6 billion) whiskey industry,

Unless you are from the Ladies' Temperance Union, you might be misusing a word here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:18 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh not this again...

It means big, okay?
posted by Artw at 8:22 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Artw: "Oh not this again...

It means big, okay?
"

It can mean big.

e·nor·mi·ty
   /ɪˈnɔrmɪti/ Show Spelled[ih-nawr-mi-tee] Show IPA
–noun, plural -ties
1. outrageous or heinous character; atrociousness: the enormity of war crimes.

2. something outrageous or heinous, as an offense: The bombing of the defenseless population was an enormity beyond belief.

3. greatness of size, scope, extent, or influence; immensity: The enormity of such an act of generosity is staggering.
Use enormity in a Sentence

Origin:
1425–75; late ME enormite < MF < L ēnormitās. See enorm, -ty2

—Can be confused:  enormity, enormousness (see usage note at this entry ).

—Synonyms
1. monstrousness, heinousness. 3. hugeness, vastness.

—Usage note
3. Enormity has been in frequent and continuous use in the sense “immensity” since the 18th century: The enormity of the task was overwhelming. Some hold that enormousness is the correct word in that sense and that enormity can only mean “outrageousness” or “atrociousness”: The enormity of his offenses appalled the public. Enormity occurs regularly in edited writing with the meanings both of great size and of outrageous or horrifying character, behavior, etc. Many people, however, continue to regard enormity in the sense of great size as nonstandard.
posted by bwg at 8:29 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this mean my car and I could BOTH be DUI at the same time?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:37 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that this is made from whisky byproducts is irrelevant adorable.

FTFY.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:27 PM on August 18, 2010


also, with respect to the water thing, this project actually produces butanol, not ethanol; butanol isn't hygroscopic.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:29 PM on August 18, 2010


I'll drink to that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:30 PM on August 18, 2010


Looks like this will be leading to some... whisky business.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 9:42 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, a niche! If we keep finding niche means of creating energy, we'll run out of niches and have a complete set! w00t!
posted by Goofyy at 11:12 PM on August 18, 2010


Fuck, man, I got whiskey superfuel teleportation. You just drink whiskey until you instantaneously wake up somewhere else, like your neighbor's lawn or the sidewalk outside Sea World.
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 PM on August 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


If we had a good method to turn cellulose into fuel we wouldn't need to do it via whisky--we could just use algae, bamboo or some other fast-growing plant.

The most energy intensive step of turning woody plants into usable fuel is actually the physical liquefaction of the wood, once you have it as a nice pulpy mass fluid much of the work is done. So, cellulose or not, these byproducts are a decent feedstock. Also, because of the heat of the Whisky making process, most of the cellulose will be short chain, rather than the long tightly bound cellulose+lignin matrix of woody plants.
posted by atrazine at 3:15 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like this will be leading to some... whisky business.

YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2010


If the draff is being turned into fuel instead of being fed to cattle, more land may have to be given over to growing grasses and grains to feed cattle, so there may be less land available to grow barley to make whisky. What I'm saying is, if this shit makes the price of whisky go up, I know where your lab is Professor Tangney.
posted by IanMorr at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2010


The cost question comes into play when all the byproducts are being used. How much does it end up costing when you're producing the stuff just for itself.
posted by delmoi at 3:19 AM on August 19 [+] [!]


Yes I don't think they have thought through the possible implications.
posted by Lanark at 12:52 PM on August 19, 2010


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