distillery decarbonisation

To decarbonise UK distilleries, the government has granted £11.3 million in funding to cut emissions from alcohol production

Distilleries are to replace their usage of fossil fuels with hydrogen and biogas, potentially cutting alcohol production emissions by half a million tonnes every year, supporting greener jobs for the industry.

Driving plans to create low-carbon green distilleries, hydrogen and biogas will power whisky and spirit producers across the country, developing low carbon heating systems that will make production processes more energy efficient.

The Green Distilleries Competition is part of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio aiming to commercialise innovative low-carbon technologies in the power, buildings and industrial sectors.

Energy Minister Greg Hands said: “From London to Livingston, the UK is home to some of the world’s best-loved drinks and the Green Distilleries Competition is supporting producers in this iconic industry to go further and faster in cutting carbon emissions as we build back greener.

“We have been at the forefront of the push to tackle climate change at the COP26 summit in Glasgow and today’s announcement is a key part of that. UK industry continues to lead the world in its innovation and commitment to meeting the challenges of tackling climate change head on. That’s certainly something worth raising a toast to.”

“Setting an example for other hard-to-decarbonise sectors”

Four projects will receive a share of over £11 million to decarbonise their distilling processes, supported through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, the winners are being announced in light of the UK’s COP26 UN Climate Change summit in Glasgow earlier this month.

With the potential for distilleries to cut carbon emissions by half a million tonnes every year – equivalent to emissions from powering more than 60,000 homes or taking around 100,000 cars off the road – the UK government continues to innovate new green technologies in line with eliminating the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.

In the first phase of Green Distilleries Competition funding, 17 projects across the UK received up to £75,000 each to help boost research and development for decarbonisation projects. Phase 2 will allow four of those original 17 to create schemes including the using the new low-carbon technology.

The four projects who won the phase 2 funding are:

  • Protium Green Solutions, who are developing a system that uses hydrogen as a fuel source rather than oil in whisky production at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay
  • Locogen Ltd, based at the Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery in Inverkeilor near Arbroath are developing and installing a green hydrogen energy system at the distillery, comprising a wind turbine, electrolyser, hydrogen storage and hydrogen boiler system
  • Colorado Construction and Engineering, based in Livingston near Edinburgh, are developing a novel biofuel batch-gasification system
  • Supercritical Solutions, a clean-tech start-up business who are developing the world’s first high-pressure ultra-efficient electrolyser to generate green hydrogen as a feedstock for the distilling process working with Beam Suntory at their Glen Garioch distillery in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

The Scotch whisky industry currently supports 40,000 jobs across the UK, including more than 10,000 people directly employed in Scotland. This green funding aims to create more high skilled jobs and provide opportunities for distilleries to develop their fuel transportation and storage technologies.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “It’s fitting that this announcement comes just before St Andrew’s Day when Scotland’s most famous product will be celebrated around the globe.

“Scotland’s whisky industry has a proud heritage and is taking massive steps to embrace innovative technologies that will make production greener and cleaner. UK government investment like this will help secure the future of the sector and the highly-skilled jobs it supports.”

Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive Karen Betts added: “This funding is a welcome boost for the industry at a time when Scotch Whisky companies are already working hard to reduce their emissions.

“As a result, nearly 40% of the industry’s energy is now coming from renewable sources. But we know we need to go further and faster, and that’s where the Green Distilleries Competition is so critical since it supports companies in testing new technologies.

“The results of the work undertaken through the competition are then shared across the sector, which helps everyone to map further our path to Net Zero. This is exactly the sort of industry-government partnership that will help us to secure a sustainable future for Scotch Whisky and for the communities across Scotland within which we work.”

Matt Bird, CEO at Supercritical said: “Our collaboration with Beam Suntory and the Manufacturing Technology Centre will help advance the world’s first high-pressure, ultra-efficient electrolyser technology for the production of zero emission hydrogen, helping to decarbonise the whisky industry whilst setting an example for other hard-to-decarbonise sectors.”

The announcement corresponds with the ambitious green targets announced in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan and the Energy White Paper.


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