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Scottish Scientists Develop Whisky Biofuel 172

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-mad-geniuses dept.
RabbitWho writes "It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'one for the road.' Whisky, the spirit that powers the Scottish economy, is being used to develop a new biofuel which could be available at petrol pumps in a few years. This biofuel can be produced from two main by-products of the whisky distilling process – 'pot ale,' the liquid from the copper stills, and 'draff,' the spent grains. Copious quantities of both waste products are produced by the £4bn whisky industry each year, and the scientists say there is real potential for the biofuel, to be available at local garage forecourts alongside traditional fuels. It can be used in conventional cars without adapting their engines. The team also said it could be used to fuel planes and as the basis for chemicals such as acetone, an important solvent."
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Scottish Scientists Develop Whisky Biofuel

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  • Mmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:10PM (#33282470)

    One for my car... one for me...
    Two for my car... two for me...

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:10PM (#33282480)
    IANMOFWF (I am not much of a whisky afficcionado) but I was worried for a minute there. The headline is misleading. They are turning byproducts of the whisky making process into biofuel and not the whisky itself, which would be a travesty indeed.
    • by Renraku (518261)

      The lower and middle class people would fill up with whiskey-flavored spirits, while the rich would 'treat' their cars with cognac and Glen Livet.

      • by Moryath (553296)

        Basically, we do this already.

        What did you *think* the difference between 87, 89, and 93-octane "ethanol enriched" gasoline was? They might as well replace the word "Ethanol" with "Jack Daniels" in American gas stations.

        • I don't see how octane content is akin to a better drink.

          Some cars run really bad on low octane fuel. I know my Peugeot hates lower octane fuels.

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          My old Integra would run on any crap I put in. I was of the same opinion as you for years. But then I replaced it with an '02 Xterra (with a supercharger, which I think was just tacked on because the '01 engine was really anemic - basically, you get a bit more power for a lot less economy and more expensive gas) and the one time my girlfriend put 87 in it (only 1/2 tank luckily) it sputtered and knocked all the way back to the gas station...

          It's a fact that engines can and are built to require higher octa

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        And fill the radiator with bottled water.

        The history of petrochemical plants is to move toward using waste products. Several commented that they could make a potable plonk. It is refreshing to see distillers moving similarly.

        • Petrochemical plants can, in theory, produce absolute ethanol without a dehydration step. Not merely potable, but chemically pure!
    • by Scarletdown (886459) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:31PM (#33282704) Journal

      I was worried for a minute there. The headline is misleading. They are turning byproducts of the whisky making process into biofuel and not the whisky itself, which would be a travesty indeed.

      Aye, burning whiskey as fuel would be a serious case of alcohol abuse.

    • There are a lot more cars consuming more fuel than the whisky industry will be able to service.

      i.e. this is an irrelevant but amusing story.

      btw. Try this one:
      http://www.oldpulteney.com/whisky.php [oldpulteney.com]

      They don't half talk a load of bollocks on their web page, but their 12 year old is better than many distilleries 18year malts. It won't rip your throat out or make you want to boak. It will however give you a blinding headache the following day if you drink one too many, but they all do that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)

        There are a lot more cars consuming more fuel than the whisky industry will be able to service.

        Even a couple percentage delta in demand for fuel might impact the price dramatically due to inelastic demand [about.com]: "That is, a 10% hike in the price of gasoline lowers quantity demanded by 2.6%. In the long-run (defined as longer than 1 year), the price elasticity of demand is -0.58; a 10% hike in gasoline causes quantity demanded to decline by 5.8% in the long run." I suppose whether the reverse is true - a 5.8% d

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Colin Smith (2679)

          Even assuming it's cheaper than oil, unfortunately Jevons Paradox pretty much ensures that any reduction in cost will simply result in an increase in usage. It is predicated on efficiency gains, but is effectively cost reduction.
           

      • Did you read the article? They explain how the cars won't need special engines and how this could reduce the fuel requirements of the nation by 10% And it uses a by-product that would otherwise go to waste.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sexconker (1179573)

      IANMOFWF (I am not much of a whisky afficcionado) but I was worried for a minute there. The headline is misleading. They are turning byproducts of the whisky making process into biofuel and not the whisky itself, which would be a travesty indeed.

      You're also not much of a speller, anagram creator, etc.

      But basically what's going on here is that the Scottish have found yet another way to pinch their pennies.

    • Indeed, Oil would have to rise quite a bit in price before you would ever consider tanking up on single malt.
    • Byproducts - draff (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @03:01AM (#33285364) Homepage

      It was implied by the article that the spent grain, draff as it is called, is going to waste. I would really hope that is a mistake in the article.

      Spent grain is very nutritious for livestock and unsurprisingly they love it, especially pigs. It's only the alcohol the distillers are interested in, but the farmers and their pigs are interested in the extra nutrients converted by the yeast that remain in the draff. There are also many old, traditional recipes for making bread from spent grain. I know a few that actually brew small beer just to have a supply of spent grain for these recipes.

      These "byproducts" are very valuable economically even they might not have a high direct resale value. It's not too unlike metal shops and the filings swept up at the end of the day. I read about a fellow that had arranged to sweep shop floors at the end of each shift for free. After a few years, he had a small team of employees and was covering many shops in the region and turning a good profit. That was before the metal shortage. Once converted to meat or bread they have high value.


      • That was before the metal shortage. Once converted to meat or bread they have high value.

        That's a delightfully confusing pair of sentences.
    • by vegiVamp (518171)
      Neh, that would mean there's finally something Jack D is good for.
    • by rapiddescent (572442) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @06:54AM (#33286338)

      I used to work at Glenturret Distillery [wikipedia.org] and pretty much all of the by products were recycled or used in some way. Even the casks were ex-bourbon or ex-Sherry casks. The draff (remainder of the 'mash' process) was picked up by a local farmer twice a day and fed to his cattle (cue corny joke for the tourists about pissed cattle). Very rich in energy apparently.

      Distilleries in the past had had explosions from the from the spirit dense air in the still rooms - I can see why the pot ale (which is actually quite a lot of liquid that is left in the still) is useful for butanol. The spirit safe - a locked glass cupboard in the still room had a mechanical chute to "cut" the spirit run - from a wash still (the first distillation) only about 40% of the total volume was taken for the 2nd spirit still. The article didn't say whether the butanol was made from the wash still pot ale or the spirit still. This has quite significant volume ramifications. A wash still based product would have much larger potential volumes than a spirit still product. Often, a wash still is twice the size of a spirit still. On a slow day we used to make molotov cocktails from spirit and got up to all sorts of high jinks.

      Hopefully this will provide much needed jobs in rural Scotland.

    • So does that mean that my whiskey will be cheaper, or will I get a warm feeling in my tummy every time I drink it.
  • Energy density (Score:4, Informative)

    by by (1706743) (1706744) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:15PM (#33282530)
    Butanol has almost the same energy density as gasoline, and burns with less air. [wikipedia.org] Send me a few gallons, and after I rich out the mixture (no fancy computer-controlled mixture for me...), I'll report back!
    • by russotto (537200)

      Don't forget to retard the shit out of the timing to handle the reduced octane.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:17PM (#33282554)

    Oh yeah, here it was: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tight_Little_Island [wikipedia.org]

    One of the guys poured a bottle of scotch into the tank of his truck, to escape the police that were looking for the, um "stolen" whisky that was removed from a banked ship.

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      I'm curious why they renamed Whisky Galore! as Tight Little Island for the US, the original title is so good.
  • I can see the filling stations now.

    On one pump you have gas with 87 octane, one with 92 octane and then single-malt or blended whiskey...

    What about the Americans? Will we develop a fuel based on Budweiser or Tequila?
    • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:53PM (#33282918)
      What about the Americans? Will we develop a fuel based on Budweiser or Tequila?

      Since this was about whiskey, how about using the byproducts of Bourbon, Tennessee, and other American whiskies, just as can be done with the byproducts of Scotch whiskey? American production dwarfs that of Scotland, tequila is gross, and no one educated about beer likes Budweiser.
      • by lewiscr (3314) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @07:41PM (#33283256) Homepage
        This can be done with the Budweiser by products too. The first step in making Whiskey is to make beer. Then you distill the beer, and age the grain alcohol to get whiskey. "pot ale" is the beer left over after distillation. "draff" is the spent grains, used to make the beer. So Budweiser has tons (many thousands) of draff, but no pot ale.
        • It would be brilliant for brewers to have outlet stores that sold both their product and fuel right at the brewery. Or power the distribution vehicles off the by-products.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Since this was about whiskey, how about using the byproducts of Bourbon, Tennessee, and other American whiskies, just as can be done with the byproducts of Scotch whiskey?

        I believe that, in America, we feed distillers grain (the leftovers from the distilling process) to cattle.
        http://www.google.com/search?q=distillers+grain+cattle+feed [google.com]

      • by NekSnappa (803141)
        But a certain amount of the mash is reused in bourbon, and Tennessee whiskey. Hence the term "sour mash". The point being to help ensure consistency of taste.
      • by pspahn (1175617)

        tequila is gross

        One of those? Do yourself a favor a find a good bottle. As with most hard booze, the bad stuff is bad and the good stuff is good. Tequila gets a bad rap, mainly because of Jose Cuervo, which is not even tequila but "mixtos" which is part tequila, part cheap sugars mixed in, hence the horrendous hangovers.

        Even cooler is mezcal, which is made from another variety of Agave (agave americana vs. agave tequilana). Agave americana, known commonly as Century Plant, is hands down the stoutest plant you will ever se

      • What does Budweiser have to do with beer?
      • by plj (673710)

        As a sidenote, Scottish whisky production, at least single malt, is actually nowadays somewhat dependent of bourbon production. This is because maturing bourbon requires new casks and single malts require used casks.

        I took a tour of Talisker distillery in July, and our guide explained us that as sherry is no longer as popular product as it used to be, they nowadays use mostly bourbon casks to mature their whisky, and the regular stuff that has been matured ten years is entirely matured in bourbon casks. (Th

      • American production dwarfs that of Scotland

        I'd like a reference for that. Whisky is a huge industry for Scotland with extremely large quantitys being exported. The only figure I could quickly find was that Scottish production topped 1 billion bottles in 2001 [celticcountries.com]. I would image it would be hard to dwarf that.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      What about the Americans? Will we develop a fuel based on Budweiser or Tequila?

      Nope, you've already contributed your fuel idea: French Fry Grease [usda.gov]

      • Well, according to my wife, I'm much more efficient at creating methane-based fuel.

        I've researched the heck out of a grease-powered (frybrid/lovecraft) mercedes or even truck.

        ATM, I'm spending less on simple gas.

        I have filled up twice on ethanol, but I have to drive ten miles to the only E85 station near Los Angeles and I get crappy mileage for the effort.
        • by d3ac0n (715594)

          Frankly, Ethanol blended fuels wreck your efficiency anyway. I don't know what the overall ratio of % ethanol to % efficiency loss is, but I've heard that it's bad. Not to mention the acidity in Ethanol will pretty much ruin your average gas engine if you use enough of it often enough.

          There is a chain of stations around my area that advertise 100% gasoline, no Ethanol. I did a little test, driving my car almost all the way down to 0 and filling up with regular 87 octane 10% Ethanol and drove my normal am

          • The ethanol does wreck efficiency. It is - IIRC - about 60% as efficient as gasoline.

            Keep in mind that we already have a 15% ethanol blend here in California.

            IMO, if I could get ethanol that reduces our dependence on totalitarian regimes like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and others, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

            My best option would be to switch to diesel and utilise either veggie oil blends or some form of bio diesel from soy or other plant materials.

            Unfortunately, diesel is a hard sell here in California.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Will we develop a fuel based on Budweiser or Tequila?

      Alcohol content is too low.

  • Meh. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SEE (7681) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:29PM (#33282690) Homepage

    Making acetone and butanol with the Weizmann organism is downright ordinary. People stopped doing in the the 1940s mostly because hydrocarbon cracking was cheaper than ABE fermentation. The feedstock isn't particularly unusual. Wonder what they're specifically trying to patent.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Heh....I can think of four or five patents for that no problem. Here's a sample:

      Making acetone and butanol with the Weizmann organism.......on a computer.
      Making acetone and butanol with the Weizmann organism.......on the internet.
      Making acetone and butanol with the Weizmann organism.......on the cloud.
      Making acetone and butanol with the Weizmann organism.......using XML for that extra sharp angled taste.
      Making acetone and butanol with the Weizmann organism.......using a protocol.

      If you don't think t
  • byproduct (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveGod (703167) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @06:31PM (#33282708)

    Scottish Scientists Develop Whisky byproduct Biofuel, is what the headline should read. The current one announces a ridiculous insanity involving using one even more scarce resource when the actual significance is that they've created a use out of a waste product. This is better than something from nothing, since the waste product was itself a problem (though I understand some distilleries were already converting it into fuel to power the plant).

    p.s. I never understood the draw to whisky when I'd tried and found "meh" even the supposed coveted bottles that are semi-widely available until I was signed into the Whisky Society in Edinburgh one night. Sure selling whisky by number without identifying the source is probably another marketing tactic but this was one of those rare "wow" moments where all the hype and marketing hyperbole actually seemed understated. Water of life indeed.

    • This is better than something from nothing, since the waste product was itself a problem

      The pot ale may be a problem but spent distiller's grains are excellent livestock feed.

    • by Inda (580031)
      Whisky is the poor mans brandy. It's no wonder they have to dilute it with cheap mixers. Brandy, served neat at blood temperature, is a mans drink; it has class.
  • Support the environment. Drink more whiskey!

  • Great news! I'll drink to that!
  • "Regular or premium?"

    "Cask strength!"

    And, of course, if you're running a turbo with about 20 pounds of boost... Talisker 10. If that don't kick your car in the teeth, nothing will.

    Mind you, none of this is really all that new to the automotive industry. I mean, Irish whiskey has been good only for washing engine parts for years now... and this is the part where I go run and hide from offended Bushmill's partisans

  • They say you can use it in conventional cars without a problem. It's a lie. If the fuel system was designed for it and you don't let it sit in the tank for more than a few months, then it's won't hurt anything. But it still doesn't perform as well.

    This crap is causing more damage than it's worth in everything from lawnmowers to racecars.

    • >ethanol sucks

      I suspect it does, but since I'm not allowed to buy anything else (pure), how can I tell?

    • by Amouth (879122)
      this isn't ethanol it's Butanol

      different substance - different properties...

      but i agree Ethanol is shit - and i make a point not to buy gas from places that have it.
    • by tsotha (720379)
      Good thing it's not ethanol.
  • I've been to Scotland numerous times, and have never heard of a "garage forecourt" but can only presume it's a petrol station. I'm curious about the performance of this proposed biofuel, and whether vehicles would achieve the same efficiency as on petrol. How many furlongs to the mutchkin are we talking about here?

    • by NekSnappa (803141)
      There are a couple of teams using it in the American Le Mans racing series in the US. One of them even won the last round a week or so back.
    • by SEE (7681)

      Butanol is pretty near gasoline in energy density, doesn't have the hydrophilic tendencies or corrosion levels of ethanol (so it can be used in existing gasoline infrastructure, like tanks and pipelines), and 100% pure butanol has successfully been used in cars designed only to burn gasoline. Of pretty much all the alternative fuels that have been proposed, it's the one that could replace gasoline with the absolute least difficulty and infrastructure adjustment.

      On the other hand, nobody's managed to get th

    • The term 'garage' is still used as an alternative to 'petrol station' in Scotland. I guess it's a remnant of the time when you could get basic car maintenance done at a petrol station.

      (That's pronounced 'GAR-age', as opposed to the French pronunciation that Americans use.)

  • "Whiskey for the gentlemen that like it, and for the gentlemen that don't like it... whiskey! "
    -- Colonel Jock Sinclair (Sir Alec Guinness), Tunes of Glory
  • by brasselv (1471265) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @07:28PM (#33283158)

    Am I the only one noticing a pattern here.

            1. Reputable scientists publish research "X".
                    --> e.g.: "On some possible applications of AI-blabla to improve car safety"
            2. Same scientists explain X to mainstream journalists, and in the process they simplify the message (sometimes in good faith, sometimes to get PRs).
                    --> e.g: "Cars will become more intelligent in the next 5 years"
            3. Mainstream journalists write articles where X is further stretched.
                    --> e.g: "May be cars will drive themselves in the next 5 years"
            4. Headline of such articles go a further mile in stretching X.
                    --> e.g.: "Are drivers obsolete?"
            5. by the time X morphs on /. it has totally become Y.
                    --> e.g. "Scientists claim that uber-intelligent robotic cars have made drivers redundant. And my home-assembled truck overlord is also baking pizzas. It runs Linux."

    • by sayfawa (1099071)
      It's a well studied cycle [phdcomics.com].
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      my home-assembled truck overlord is also baking pizzas. It runs Linux.

      Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of those things.
      In Soviet Russia, pizza delivers you to the overlord!

  • So they're going to take "waste products" (which they already have plenty of uses for) and substitute a more expensive fuel to replace gasoline. Which also happens to provide 10% less energy - (which means you'll have to burn that much more of it) While increasing the amount of emission by products.

    Yeah, I bet they'll have plenty of patents on it.

  • Speaking for the people of Kentucky, I'd like to say:
    Please, please, please work with bourbon.
    There's about a dozen distilleries within 50 miles of where I live. I'd love to use locally produced fuel.

    Plus, drinking bourbon would be considered an environmentally friendly act.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      There's about a dozen distilleries within 50 miles of where I live. I'd love to use locally produced fuel.

      If it works, they're not going to give it to you for free. Although, I can see running their own fleet off it and saving a bunch of cash on trucking expenses.

      Of course, if your tailpipe smelled like bourbon, I can see a lot of people in Kentucky asphyxiating as an unfortunate side effect of this. :-P

  • by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:43PM (#33284236) Homepage

    "It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "one for the road". Whisky, the spirit that powers the Scottish economy, is being used to develop a new biofuel which could be available at petrol pumps in a few years.

    Whisky accounts for approximately £2bn of Scotland's £86.3bn GDP.

    Nice try though. Check your references before making absurd generalizations like this one. (I'll bet you also didn't know that there are also large swaths of the country that neither produce nor consume Whisky in meaningful quantities. )

    • by SEE (7681) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @11:29PM (#33284884) Homepage

      Yes, but though large, they aren't significant swaths. They're full of No True Scotsmen.

    • by pspahn (1175617)

      Thanks. That number seemed a bit suspect. Though, I suppose it could have been worded a little differently so that it was clear it is the spirit that powers the economy, versus the other spirits produced in Scotland.

      Don't Scots also have logs and sheep? Once a year near Santa Cruz people dress up in kilts and throw huge-ass logs for fun. I also recall a joke about a sheep and a cliff.

    • by splutty (43475)

      I think you're misunderstanding the statement being made.

      They weren't talking about a monetary value of the whiskey production vs the GDP.

      They were talking about it fueling the economy. Consider the fact whiskey fuels the average Scots(wo)man, who in turn fuel the economy, and you'll see where the statement comes from!

      Similar to Guiness fueling the Irish economy.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Of course we understood that: Any idiot knows that wool accounts for the other £84.3bn.

  • Let me know when I can turn fuel from the gas station into Laphroaig.
  • Instead in using Scotch as fuel, they should use Scotch for drinking. Drunk people shouldn't drive which automatically results in more walking for the drunk (exercise is good and healthy) and less traffic (good for nature, less noise of the public, and fewer accidents).

    More cheap Scotch for everyone. You could use Bourbon as fuel it is much better suited for fuel than for drinking. ;-)

  • I can put whiskey into my horseless whisky carriage and ride around! How splendid!

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