We Love Green! Another Cure for Whisky’s Carbon Hangover
on 14/06/11 at 10:16 amBooze News
The stink of methane is not what comes to mind when dreaming of the warm, sweet smells of a whisky distillery. But Scotland’s Bruichladdich Distillery is hot on the scent of a whisky industry with a cleaner finish. The company says its operations on the Isle of Islay now run 100 percent on methane produced on its seaside grounds.
Until recently, the 130-year-old distillery had fed its spent barley (draff), which is locally grown, to the island’s cattle. They threw their pot ale (the leftover swill of dead yeast and water) into the ocean. Transporting the pot ale to a different stretch of coast where a pipe would expel it into the Sound of Islay was pricey. The yearly cost was around $30,000. But now that pot ale helps with the electricity bills, as feedstock for the distillery’s new anaerobic digester. Under oxygen-free conditions, microorganisms within the digester break down the organic waste product and convert it to methane, which is then burned for power. Water is the only byproduct. Farmers use similar digesters to produce electricity from cow manure.
Back to the Scotch. Bruichladdich makes around 46,000 cases of single malt whisky annually. With that comes thousands of tons of pot ale. The company customized its digester, The Independent reports, by breeding microbes to specifically handle the pot ale from this distillery. In addition to their previous transportation costs, their new disposal strategy reportedly saves the distillery almost $250,000 a year on electricity. Installing the device came in at around $450,000.
The Independent quotes Bruichladdich’s owner Mark Reynier:
Our farting microbes are farting methane to power our generator which in turn feeds into the distillery’s electrical distribution network [which also fuels Reynier's electric car].
I’m no eco-warrior. There are so many hare-brain environmental schemes out there and in the whisky industry that just don’t work or are simply PR exercises. This, though, was a very interesting concept that made good business sense.