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Sunday feeling: Scotland’s whiskey-byproduct biomass

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Helius_small@bodyIt feels like a natural for the Scots to come up with a way to get energy out of whiskey.

If you like your whiskey neat or on the rocks or even if you don’t drink this is pretty neat:  Helius Energy Plc and the Combination of Rothes Distillers (CoRD) formed a joint venture known as Helius CoRDe, that will build and operate a biomass energy plant using whiskey distillery by-products.

The proposed £50 million ($82.7 million) project would reduce the carbon footprint of the whiskey industry on the Scottish island of Speyside.

The plant will use whiskey distillery byproducts to fuel a 7.2-megawatt GreenSwitch biomass combined heat and power plant and a GreenFields plant that will turn the liquid co-product of whisky production, known as Pot Ale, into a concentrated organic fertilizer and an animal feed for use by local farmers.

Helius CoRDe will be responsible for the financing, construction and operation of the new plant. The project could save more than 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year when compared to CoRD’s current energy use, the distillers say.

“This agreement formalizes the work we have undertaken so far and sets out the structure for us to take this project forward to completion,” says Frank Burns, CoRD general manager. “ The ability to generate renewable heat and power and secure additional markets for our distillery co-products is a very exciting development for the malt whisky industry on Speyside.”

Officials said they anticipate that engineering procurement and construction contract awards likely will come soon, allowing plant construction to begin in early 2010. It will take about two years to complete project construction.

And there’s more recent action on the Scottish biomass front with word late last month that Forth Energy, a joint venture created last year between Forth Ports Plc and Scottish and Southern Energy is preparing to go ahead with the development of four dedicated biomass power stations at Forth Ports’ site in Scotland.

Plants are proposed for Dundee, Leith, Rosyth and Grangemouth. Installed capacity would total around 400 megawatts. Softwood sourced from forests in the UK and overseas would provide the main source of fuel.

Pot Ale is a high-protein co-product removed prior to final distillation of the spirit. The solid grain product removed from the mash tun, prior to fermentation of the liquor, is known as draff.

The GreenFields process takes the co-products from distillery operations (including process water, pot ale and draff) and turns them into “value inputs” such as biomass fuel, soil conditioner, animal feed and water for cooling and cleaning purposes.

The combined heat and power unit will use a combination of distillery co-products and wood chips from sustainable sources to generate the 7.2 megawatts of electricity, enough for 9,000 homes, which can be used onsite or exported to the National Grid.

CoRD was founded in 1904 to process the Pot Ale produced by the whisky distilleries in the Rothes area. It is owned by a combination of distilling companies – comprising The Edrington Group, Chivas Brothers, Glen Grant Distillery Ltd, Inver House Distillers, Diageo and Benriach Distillery Co.

“Biomass will play a major role in meeting the UK’s targets for emissions reductions, and [the Helius CoRde venture] is a model that has the potential to be rolled-out elsewhere. Drinking green whisky may give you a warm glow but it’ll also help to avoid warming the planet,” says John Seed, managing director of Helius Energy.

So drink responsibly and don’t drive but if you do overdo it on occasion the morning-after guilt might not be so bad, if you can remember the biomass angle. Or not.



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Written by William DiBenedetto

20 September, 2009 at 8:58 am

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