REPORTER: Whisky and cars don't normally go together, but the term drink-driving now has a whole new meaning. Scottish scientists are converting whisky waste products into butanol ... which soon could be powering cars.
CELTIC RENEWABLES FOUNDER, PROFESSOR MARTIN TANGNEY: "SO; when you malt the barley you're left with this draff..."
REPORTER: Energy company Celtic Renewables is driving the initiative. It's using bacteria to ferment the unused barley and leftover liquid from whisky production. The ingredients may be waste, but company founder Martin Tangney says the final product is invaluable.
CELTIC RENEWABLES FOUNDER, PROFESSOR MARTIN TANGNEY: "What we put into the cars is biobutanol. This is a fuel that has been recognised over the last number of years as being a very powerful, direct like-for-like substitute for petrol. It has the same energy value. You can use the same existing infrastructure. you don't need to modify car engines. You can genuinely use it as a like-for-like replacement."
REPORTER: Tullibardine's the only distillery involved at the moment, but plans to commercialise the process mean what began with 3 litres of butanol could hit 10 thousand within 3 years. Scotland produces over 1.8 billion bottles of whisky a year - but its waste is a lot more than that. Over 90% of what comes out of whisky distilleries is in fact not whisky at all — it's waste. And most of it is this stuff - pot ale. It fills up stills like this one behind me, and for every one litre of whisky made, there are eight litres of this. As for the barley, or draff - Tullibardine fills six lorry-loads a week. These waste products do have other uses - as low grade animal feed and fertiliser, but that comes at a hefty cost. Tullibardine spends a quarter of a million pounds year just on waste disposal. Distillery Manager David Simpson hopes the money will now flow back in.
TULLIBARDINE DISTILLERY MANAGER DAVID SIMPSON: "It's not just for Tullibardine. Obviously the whole industry would benefit from this and everyone is sort of looking at this with open eyes, hoping that this will work for the whole industry which would reduce costs for everyone."
REPORTER: Plans are brewing to export the technology to other whisky producers like India, Japan and North America. Celtic Renewables wants to use beer too, hoping to create a biofuel industry with a turnover of 100 million pounds.