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Scottish Whisky Tested as Alternative to Fossil Fuels

Waste products from a popular alcoholic drink could be used in the future to make biofuel.

Researchers say the new fuel, based on whisky, could reduce demand for oil. They say using less oil could cut pollution that studies have linked to climate change.

Scotland is the largest producer of whisky in the world. And a Scottish professor has found how to take the byproducts from distilling whisky and turn them into a form of alcohol called biobutanol. Biobutanol can be used as fuel.

Whisky comes from grain, such as corn, rye or wheat. First, the liquid is purified. It is heated until it becomes a gas. The gas is then cooled, and the resulting liquid collected.

Martin Tangney is director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Napier University in Edinburgh. He says less than 10 percent of what comes out can be considered whisky. The rest is mainly one of two unwanted byproducts: pot ale and barley.

Tangney says the two byproducts can be produced to create a new material: biobutanol.

He says the whisky-based biofuel provides more power than bioethanol, a fuel made from plants like corn or sugar cane. He says it has almost the same amount of energy as the gasoline used to power automobiles.

Tangney says bioethanol has only 70 percent of the energy produced from gasoline. He adds that automobile engines do not need to be changed for biobutanol to work.

The Scottish professor is also the founder of Celtic Renewables. The company produces biobutanol at a factory in Belgium. Tangney does not expect biobutanol to replace gasoline, but thinks the two fuels can be mixed together. He says it is possible the fuel may also be used in airplanes, ships and in heaters.

He says drivers would also be helping the environment by "reducing the oil that we consume by putting this into their cars."

Celtic Renewables has received $17 million from the British government to build a production facility in Scotland. The center is expected to be operational within three years.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

VOA’s Deborah Block reported on this story from Washington. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

What do you think about whisky as a fuel for vehicles or people? Leave a comment or a post on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

distilling – v. to purify a liquid

facility – n. something such as a building or large piece of equipment that is built for a specific purpose

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