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From hydrogen to repurposed waste, firms win government cash to convert distilleries to green energy

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Businesses in Inverurie, Orkney and South Uist are among 17 in the UK to be awarded government funding to go green.

The firms will each receive between £44,000 and £85,000 in the first phase of a £10 million fund to help them explore new low-carbon energy sources including hydrogen and repurposed waste.

Businesses were invited to apply for the “Green Distilleries Competition” last year. Under the first phase of the initiative, the companies are putting forward feasibility studies on how to introduce the technologies into production processes. There will then be another round of funding later this year.

The winners include the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre which will receive £58,781 to help develop green hydrogen power.

The Uist Distilling Company had two successful applications under the initiative and will be granted £44,572 to develop a combination of a hydrogen burner and use of a  thermal oil rather than steam. It was awarded a further £40,539.23 for a high-temperature heat store that could allow a distillery to be run purely on electricity.

Artist impressions showing the Uist Distilling Company’s plans for a new distillery on Benbecula.

The company, which is only a year old, is owned by South Uist businessman Angus A Macmillan and his son Angus E Macmillan, and hopes to start production in early 2022.

They revealed plans last summer for a distillery complex which includes low carbon technologies in the design, build and distillation process.

Protium Energy, a consultancy in Inverurie specialising in green energy, was awarded £57,464 to explore high-temperature heat store technology for distilleries.

Ian Palmer, managing director, InchDairnie Distillery, Glenrothes.

Green journey

Fife company John Fergus and Co Ltd, which operates the InchDairnie Distillery in Glenrothes, is to receive £71,812 for the use of hydrogen on site to decarbonise processed heat.

Ian Palmer, managing director, said: “We are a new distillery and started distilling in 2015. We are not a traditional distillery in the kind of the old world type of thinking, we are very much a modern distillery with modern thinking.

“When we designed the distillery we put in a lot of modern technology and part of that went into our energy consumption and how we were using it, so we were consuming as little as possible.

“We designed a very efficient distillery to begin with, but there was a point where we couldn’t go further because the technology didn’t exist at that time so this gives us an opportunity to basically take an energy-efficient distillery and basically do, as the phrase says, decarbonise it.”

The government said the distilleries switching to greener energy sources would be equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road in terms of pollution prevention.

Energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Building back greener from the pandemic is something we can all raise a toast to.

“Every business can play a part in the green industrial revolution and this funding will allow UK distilleries to lead the way by making their production cleaner while also creating jobs.”

Writing in the Press and Journal, he added: “This is just the first phase of a new funding pot totalling £10 million to help kickstart projects with the aim to develop the world’s first completely low-carbon distillery sector.”

The Scotch whisky industry supports 40,000 jobs across the UK, with more than 10,000 people directly employed in Scotland – 7,000 of them in rural areas. According to government figures, in 2019, the UK distilleries industry grew by 20%.

The “Green Distilleries” initiative is part of a UK Government commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

Scotland Minister Iain Stewart.

Scotland minister Iain Stewart said: “It is fantastic to see so many Scottish distilleries awarded this UK Government funding. Scotland is world famous for its whisky and gin, with the spirits industry one of our greatest success stories.

“This new funding will help the industry continue to build on its great work in tackling climate change.

“From Aberdeen and Glasgow to Orkney and South Uist, this funding will help create jobs, support local businesses and communities and build back greener ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year.”

Dagmar Droogsma, director of industry at the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “The Green Distilleries Fund is an important step on the industry’s journey towards net-zero. It will help the industry test new technologies, like hydrogen, which can be rolled out at scale in future years and enable Scotch Whisky to further drive down emissions and protect the natural environment.

“With COP26 taking place in Glasgow this year, the Scotch Whisky industry has ambitious plans to build on the success of the last decade when distilleries cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34%. There is more to do, but with continued support from government the Scotch Whisky industry can continue to work towards a more sustainable future.”

The full list of Scottish winners:

1.  Locogen Ltd (£43,325), Edinburgh. Switching a distillery from fuel oil to hydrogen burners.

2.  Protium Energy Limited (£57,464), Inverurie. A high temperature heat store.

3.  European Marine Energy Centre (£58,781), Orkney Islands. Assessing technology pathways to facilitate green hydrogen.

4.  The Uist Distilling Company Ltd (£44,572), The Isle of South Uist. Combination of a hydrogen burner and indirect heating of a thermal oil rather than steam.

5.  Colorado Construction and Engineering Ltd (£73,636.80), Edinburgh. Hydrogen and dual hydrogen/biofuel burners for distilleries.

6.  The Uist Distilling Company Ltd (£40,539.23), The Isle of South Uist. A high temperature heat store that would allow a distillery to be run purely on electricity.

7.  John Fergus & Co Ltd (£71,812.55), Glenrothes. The use of hydrogen on site to decarbonise process heat.

8.  The Edrington Group Ltd (£56,930.00), Glasgow. An innovative stillhouse Condenser Hot Water Recovery System.

9.  St Andrews Brewers Limited (£51,547.00), Glasgow. A combination of heat pumps, green hydrogen and biomass.

10. Sunamp Ltd (£61,412.50), Edinburgh. A large-scale phase change material thermal store.

11. Colorado Construction and Engineering Ltd (£74,768.10), Edinburgh. The conversion of waste distillery draff and pot ale into a gasification-gas.

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