Noo The King’s Ain Whisky becomes latest distiller to ‘go green’ after converting to new biomass boiler


Lord Smith, Chairman, Green Investment Bank (centre) at the Balcas-fired Royal Brackla distillery, near Inverness
Lord Smith, Chairman, Green Investment Bank (centre) at the Balcas-fired Royal Brackla distillery, near Inverness

Another high-profile Scots whisky distiller has ‘gone green’ by installing a new wood-chip (aka biomass) burner.

The 200-year old Royal Brackla distillery at Nairn, near Inverness, is the latest distillery to benefit from funding from the Edinburgh-based Green Investment Bank (GIB) to improve its energy efficiency.

The project will finance the installation of a biomass boiler to replace the existing, heavy fuel oil boilers. This will reduce the distillery’s energy costs and its greenhouse gas emissions, without requiring any up-front capital investment from the distillery.

The boilers will be used to produce steam, necessary for several parts of the whisky production process.

Taking time out of his busy diary as ‘Lord Devolution’ – GIB chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin (who has been tasked by British prime minister David Cameron with coming up with a draft Bill for enhancing home rule for Scotland following the Independence referendum) – said:  

“Scotch whisky is a criticallyimportant part of Scotland’s economy. That’s why I am delighted that we are able to help another distillery to save money and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. These projects have been structured so that the distilleries can start saving money from day one and don’t need to find the capital up-front.

“This is an investment to help one of our most iconic industries to modernise, become more efficient and reduce its carbon footprint.”

The project is expected to save the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as taking appx 2,000 cars off the road. As well as saving greenhouse gas emissions by switching from oil to biomass, the biomass boiler is anticipated to be 50% more energy efficient than the current oil-fired boilers.

Royal Brackla – now owned by the Bacardi drinks group – was founded in Nairn in 1812. It was the first distillery to receive the Royal Warrant and has been since lauded as “the King’s ain whisky.” It was also one of the first malt whiskies used in producing blended whisky. 

Ernest Kidney, Managing Director of Balcas (based in N. Ireland) – which is providing the biomass fuel for the new boiler –  added; “Royal Brackla is the fourth Scots whisky distillery to benefit from our fully integrated energy solution. We are delighted to be working with the organisation to assist them in reducing business overheads and overall environmental impact.

 “The Scots whisky industry has certainly embraced the switch to renewable fuels, and is leading the way for industrial steam users in the UK.

“This is in turn providing instant and significant carbon savings, security of fuel supply and the opportunity for these companies to take advantage of the governments’ Renewable Heat Incentive, which offers substantial commercial benefits.”

The investment was made by the Equitix-managed fund, Energy Saving Investments (ESI), in which GIB is the cornerstone investor, alongside the Equitix Energy Efficiency Fund (EEEF). The investment is in partnership with Balcas Limited (Balcas), a British SME and manufacturer of wood pellet biomass.

Geoff Jackson, Chief Executive, Equitix, commented: “We are seeing a strong and growing appetite from distilleries to convert to sustainable biomass, both due to increasing carbon reduction commitments and to seek ways to reduce energy bills.  Equitix are pleased to be able to provide financing for these biomass boiler solutions through our managed funds.” 

Iain Lochhead, Distillery Director, added: “The installation of the biomass boiler will mark a significant change in the environmental performance of the distillery as we are expecting an annual target reduction of some 5,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. 

“This goes hand-in-hand with our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally by 50% by 2017. By a happy coincidence it also marks the return of Royal Brackla as a single malt with a range of expressions being released early next year.”

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