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Whisky-makers share in £11m-plus pot of cash for green projects

Glen Garrioch Distillery

Three Scottish whisky plants are at the heart of grants totalling £11.32 million in the second phase of the UK Government’s Green Distilleries competition.

Glen Garioch distillery, in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, is home to one of the projects receiving cash.

Its owner, Beam Suntory, teamed up with clean technology start-up Supercritical and the Manufacturing Technology Centre to conduct an industrial hydrogen trial,

The project – named WhiskHy – is now backed by £2.94m of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy funding.

Supercritical aims to develop the world’s first high pressure, ultra-efficient electrolyser, and has partnered with the distiller to scale up capacity and build out the system.

Over the course of the 21-month project, the group will use hydrogen to fire the stills to produce around 57,000 bottles of whisky.

The first of the finished product is expected to be ready “sometime after 2025”.

WhiskHy follows the completion of a similar three-month feasibility trial at the Ardmore distillery, in Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire, which saw the site’s wastewater used as a feedstock for producing clean-burning “green” hydrogen.

There, the green fuel was used in place of liquefied petroleum gas feedstock to power still boilers.

Supercritical says its technology has the potential to reduce emissions in other hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as chemicals, heavy industry and transport.

Beam Suntory, whose whisky brands also include Teacher’s, The Ardmore, Bowmore, Laphroaig and Auchentoshan, launched its “Proof Positive” sustainability strategy earlier this year, with an ambition to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030.

Bruichladdich Distillery, on Islay, has also unveiled plans to cut emissions using innovative technology.

It aims to decarbonise its distillation process by 2025.

Bruichladdich Distillery.

Dubbed HyLaddie and led by technology developer Protium, Bruichladdich’s pilot scheme will also use on-site hydrogen combustion equipment to heat its stills.

A later phase of the project, expected in summer 2023, would see hydrogen and oxygen produced from a larger commercial-scale electrolyser situated offsite that will operate alongside a new renewable energy project on the island.

The ambition is to roll out the technology across Islay’s other distilleries.

HyLaddie will receive a £2.65m share of the latest BEIS funding round.

There is also £3m to support Arbikie Distillery, near Montrose, with plans to generate power using onsite wind and hydrogen technology.

Arbikie teamed up with Edinburgh-based renewables company Locogen and hydrogen technology specialist Logan Energy to help the vodka, gin and rye whisky distillery become net-zero.

The produced hydrogen will replace fuel oil currently used by the plant to raise steam for the distillation process.

A one-megawatt wind turbine on Arbikie’s farmland will export electricity to a hydrogen “hub”, comprising an electrolyser, compressor and storage.

It is hoped the project will showcase the technical feasibility of using hydrogen as an alternative fuel in distillation and other process heat applications, while also acting as a catalyst for creating renewable energy opportunities in the wider Angus area.

Locogen chief executive Andy Lyle said the award was “a fantastic result” for Arbikie, and offered “a great opportunity to demonstrate how distilleries, and the wider process industries, can use new technologies to create cleaner, sustainable businesses.”

Innovation in action

Logan Energy chief executive Bill Ireland said: “This project is a further example of the innovative ways hydrogen can meet the energy-solution challenges, like commercial heating, faced around the world – starting at home with one of Scotland’s most renowned exports. “

Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire councillors have raised a glass to “innovative” plans for a wind-powered whisky distillery and visitor centre at Turriff.

Existing buildings at Yonderton Farm will be revamped for the pioneering project, which will see an educational visitor centre built on nearby land.