With Burns Night here, many of us will be looking forward to a dram or two of our favourite malt. And this year, our most traditional of tipples is going cutting-edge thanks to the announcement of a £10 million funding package to help distilleries ‘go green’.
The Green Distilleries competition, run by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced the first winners of the competition, with 11 of Scotland’s 17 distilleries receiving funding support.
Renewable energy specialist Locogen and hydrogen technology expert Logan Energy are partnering to deliver green solutions to two of these winning projects and will work together to help whisky distilleries in Benbecula and Inverkeilor move away from traditional distilling processes that rely on burning fuel oil or natural gas, to a more environmentally friendly alternative that embraces green hydrogen.
The funding scheme aims to help distilleries cut CO2 emissions by one million tonnes, contributing to Scotland’s national target to be carbon neutral by 2050, with each distillery deploying innovative green solutions in order to achieve these ambitious goals.
Benbecula Distillery by The Uist Distilling Company Ltd
With an aim to “champion all things Hebridean”, this brand new distillery will help drive local tourism with a visitor centre and food outlet, and will also provide an economic boost by creating 25 jobs within the local community.
Currently, most operational distilleries power the distillation process by raising steam through burning fuel oil or natural gas. Instead, this project will look into the opportunity for this new distillery to be low carbon from the outset. To do this, Locogen and Logan Energy will look into the possibility of the distillery being run by a hydrogen burner and indirect heating of a thermal oil, rather than conventional steam. This innovative engineering approach uses the indirect burning of hydrogen to create a safer operational environment and a cheaper solution than direct combustion.
Chosen for their impressive track-records and expertise in delivering renewable and low-carbon technologies, both Locogen and Logan Energy will also look at the feasibility of creating hydrogen onsite through the installation of renewable energy generation, as well as finding markets for any excess hydrogen created. The production of hydrogen offsite using operational renewable energy assets and transport to site will also be investigated.
The Benbecula Distillery will also look at launching a second Green Distilleries project. Here, the distillery aims to be run by an electrically-driven high temperature heat store, instead of fossil fuel based oil burners. The insulated high temperature heat store will use electricity to raise the internal temperature of the storage medium, which can then be used as process heat. This heat can be dispatched in under one second, allowing energy to be used as flexibly and efficiently as possible.
Many existing and new distilleries are situated in rural areas where the electricity network is highly constrained, limiting the possibilities for new renewable electricity generation as export to the grid is not possible. This innovative heat store solution enables the possibility of adding further renewable sources of electricity, even where there are local grid constraints, by providing a flexible and dispatchable load.
The result is a zero or low-carbon distillery with lower energy demands and higher resource efficiency, creating a set-up that can be replicated across the distillation industry and applied in other industrial commercial settings with high thermal energy use.
The Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery, Inverkeilor
Currently, the Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery operates a “field to bottle” model, with all ingredients planted, sown, grown and harvested onsite. Even the mountain-filtered water used in Arbikie spirits is taken from an underground lagoon.
In this project, Locogen and Logan Energy will be working with the Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery to assess the feasibility of switching from fuel oil to hydrogen burners that provide direct process heat for distillation. Direct combustion of hydrogen in burners would require the retrofit of the fuel distribution and boiler systems within the distillery. The option of creating hydrogen offsite and transporting onsite will also be investigated.
This method allows for integration with onsite or offsite renewable energy sources, which can create hydrogen through electrolysis. The project will create a zero or low carbon distillery that has been converted from fossil fuel dependence, and it is hoped that this will become a model that can be rolled out across the distillation sector and other industries.
Andy Lyle, CEO of Locogen, said: “These projects combine the best of traditional skills and methods with innovative technologies to make the country’s national drink even more palatable. It seems that “guid auld Scotch drink” has a great future in the new zero-carbon economy.”
Bill Ireland, CEO of Logan Energy, said: “Working with Locogen, the success of these projects has the potential to play a catalytic role in the adoption of hydrogen technologies across Scotland’s whisky industry.
“Ahead of this year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow, these projects are a great opportunity to showcase the many non-transportational challenges that hydrogen can help solve by decarbonising one of Scotland’s most famed exports.
“By applying new technologies to traditional processes, both of these distilleries are now well placed to be at the forefront of the clean energy movement that will be vital to helping us meet our net-zero objectives.”
Angus A McMillan, chairman and chief executive of Benbecula Distillery, owners of the Uist Distilling Company, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with Locogen and Logan Energy on these projects. We think the move towards a more environmentally friendly, low-carbon distilling process is the right one. It reflects our desire for the distillery to represent the best of Hebridean produce and traditions, while embracing 21st century technologies.”
Iain Stirling, Director at Arbikie Distillery, said: “Arbikie Distillery is delighted to be working with Locogen and Logan Energy on the Green Distilleries project. When we founded Arbikie in 2014 we aimed to be one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries and we are on the road to achieving this distilling Nadar, the world’s first climate-positive gin and vodka. The Green Distilleries project is a next step, a very significant one as we focus on achieving Net Zero with hydrogen”