Celtic Renewables set for global breakthrough in turning whisky into fuel’s gold


Prof. Martin Tangney, Celtic Renewables (right) and Professor Wim Soetaert, Chief Executive, BBEPP
Prof. Martin Tangney, Celtic Renewables (right) and Professor Wim Soetaert, Chief Executive, BBEPP

WORLD EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News Staff Reporter

Edinburgh-based biofuel company Celtic Renewables has signed an agreement with Europe’s foremost biotechnology pilot facility to test its process for turning whisky by-products into biofuel for vehicles.

The partnership, which will allow Celtic Renewables to develop its technology at Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP) in Ghent, Belgium, has been made possible by second round funding worth £1.2million, including more than £800,000 from the UK Government, to help meet its ambition of growing a new £100 million-a-year industry in the UK.

Celtic Renewables is a spin-out company from the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh’s Napier University.

It has already proved the concept of producing biobutanol from pot ale (the yeasty liquid that is heated during distillation), and draff – the sugar-rich kernels of barley which are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process necessary for whisky production. It will spend the next few months seeking to replicate work done in its Scottish laboratory at an industrial scale.

It is the first company to trial biobutanol technology at the Belgian demonstrator pilot facility and also the first Scottish company to sign a partnership with BBEPP.

Established by the EU to enable the development of a sustainable biobased economy, BBEPP supports the advancement of sustainable biobased processes that cut reliance on non-replaceable fossil fuels.

Professor Martin Tangney, Founder and President,Celtic Renewables, said the latest developments demonstrated the commitment of government and industry partners to help it meet its ambition to become a groundbreaking company, based in Scotland, with global reach.

“Our ambition to grow a sustainable, international industry from Scotland requires strong partnerships and we are delighted to be working with BioBase Europe Pilot Plant, to help us complete the next, crucial stage in our development,” he said.

It is anticipated that the work done by Celtic Renewables at the research plant will facilitate the production of the world’s first industrial samples of biobutanol derived from whisky production residues, allowing it to be used as a direct replacement for petrol and diesel – without the need to modify engines.

The company plans to build its first commercial demonstration facility in Scotland and it is targeting a proposed £25 million fund operated by the Department of Transport to help fund this.

Celtic Renewables recently gained second-round investment of £410,000 in private equity investment and it has been awarded funding worth more than £800,000 from the UK Department of Energy.

Professor Tangney added: “This partnership agreement has only been made possible by the immensely encouraging demonstration of continued support from our private investors and a hugely important grant from DECC.”

Michael Fallon, UK Energy Minister, said: “This novel technology takes the by-products of Scotland’s finest export to power vehicles. DECC’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund was designed to support small and medium-sized businesses like Celtic Renewables to develop state-of-the-art technologies, products and processes that will help us become more energy efficient.”

Celtic Renewables have protected their patents with the assistance of a Scottish patents agency.

Watch the video on Scottish Energy NewsTV:


Pixie Energy

Pixie logo Pixie Energy is an incubator and a facilitator of strategic research and project work, focusing on energy regulation, policy and markets at the local and national level. Find out more about Pixie Energy here.

Local Energy Matters: Scotland

Local Energy Matters: Scotland is a free-to-download brochure with a focus on energy tariffs in the two Scottish electricity distribution regions, as well news on local energy and low-carbon schemes.

Previous editions can be download here.

Scottish energy market overview

You can read an overview of the Scottish energy market here.

Scottish Government energy feed