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Cars Run on Glenkinchie Scotch Whiskey

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On: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 1:27PM | By: Chris Weiss

Cars Run on Glenkinchie Scotch Whiskey

Researchers at the Edinburg Napier University are determined to offer a new green fuel option: booze. Or more specifically: booze byproducts. From one of the only places in the world that has a liquor named after it comes a new form of butanol that is significantly more efficient than ethanol and could become the next great alternative fuel.

The University's Biofuel Research Center is in the process of pushing the new product called biobutanol. The fuel was created from the byproducts of whiskey distillation including pot ale and draff, which were supplied by Diageo's Glenkinchie Distillery. The two-year research project culminated in the production of a biofuel that claims to offer 30 percent more output power than ethanol, while using nothing more than a waste product. This extra output means that cars could be fueled directly with biobutanol rather than requiring mixing with petrol gas the way that ethanol does.

Ethanol, a fuel that is found at pumps in the United States, is a clean-burning grain alcohol produced from crops such as corn. As such, it helps to reduce dependency on foreign oil and provide a cleaner form of fuel for the environment. However, ethanol is not used as a dedicated fuel, and must be blended with petroleum-based gasoline for use. According to the American Coalition for Ethanol, about 70 percent of the gasoline used in the United States contains some ethanol, but the majority of that only uses a 10-percent blend known as E10. Blends that include more ethanol such as E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent unleaded gasoline) are only used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs).

Unlike ethanol, biobutanol doesn't rely on growing crops (though the distillation of Scotch whiskey does require barley and other grains). Since the Scotch whiskey industry is already producing byproducts, the source of the new fuel is readily available. According to the BBC's numbers, the whiskey industry produces 1,600 million liters of pot ale and 187,000 tonnes of draff each year. The fact that biobutanol doesn't rely on blending means that traditional cars will be able to use it and modified flex-fuel vehicles will not be required to take advantage.

Professor Martin Tangney, director of the Biofuel Research Center, explained the significance: "While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them."

The research center plans to create a company to try and push the new fuel to gas stations in the U.K.

I'm not sure what kind of message this sends in terms of drunk driving, but otherwise, it seems like a win-win.


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