Scottish distilleries receive £11.3m Government funding pot for hydrogen and biogas

B Corp Bruichladdich Distillery (pictured) is the base for one of the four projects to receive funding

The £11.3m funding, confirmed this week by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), will be split across four innovative projects testing and scaling low-carbon solutions for the Scotch Whiskey industry.

Three of the four projects are working to implement hydrogen-fuelled processes in distilleries.

On the Isle of Islay, Bruichladdich is working with Protium Green Solutions and Jericho Energy to implement hydrogen heating at its distillery, which has been operating since the Victorian era. The distillery has already conducted a feasibility study for installing a hydrogen-powered ‘dynamic combustion chamber’, and will use the funding to install the technology onsite. The installation, Protium has stated, should be completed by 2023.

The second hydrogen project to receive a share of the funding is based at Arbikie Highland Estate’s distillery near Arbroath. In partnership with Locogen, the distillery will install an onsite green hydrogen production facility comprising a wind turbine and electrolyser. There will also be hydrogen storage capacity and a hydrogen-ready boiler system.

Lastly, Beam Suntory will receive funding to progress a partnership it has forged with cleantech start-up Supercritical Solutions, set up to develop a next-generation, ultra-efficient electrolyser. The partners claim the technology is the first of its kind in the world.

Also receiving a share of the funding is Livingston-based Colorado Construction and Engineering, which is developing a system that would enable distilleries to retrofit existing boilers with the means to gasify biofuels.

The funding is being awarded under the second phase of BEIS’s Green Distillery Competition, which draws its funding from the £1bn Net-Zero Innovation Portfolio launched by HM Treasury in March.

Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive Karen Betts said: “This funding is a welcome boost for the industry at a time when Scotch Whisky companies are already working hard to reduce their emissions. As a result, nearly 40% of the industry’s energy is now coming from renewable sources. But we know we need to go further and faster, and that’s where the Green Distilleries Competition is so critical since it supports companies in testing new technologies.

“The results of the work undertaken through the competition are then shared across the sector, which helps everyone to map further our path to net-zero. This is exactly the sort of industry-government partnership that will help us to secure a sustainable future for Scotch Whisky and for the communities across Scotland within which we work.”

The UK is targeting £4bn of investment in green hydrogen and blue hydrogen – the latter of which is produced using natural gas in facilities co-located with carbon capture arrays – through its Hydrogen Strategy. The Strategy was published in August after a string of delays, with analysts predicting that it will lay the foundations for increased investment in the UK’s clean energy space in the next six months.

Even before the Strategy’s publication, the Scotch Whiskey industry was forging ahead with plans to develop, scale and use its own green hydrogen hub.

Scotland has favourable conditions for green hydrogen generation, playing host to the vast majority of the UK’s onshore wind, and with major offshore wind expansion in the pipeline. Moreover, it is targeting net-zero by 2045 – five years ahead of the UK as a whole.

Whitelee wind farm

The news on the Green Distilleries Fund comes shortly after the UK Government confirmed £9.4m of funding for a hydrogen storage project, to be co-located with the Whitelee onshore wind farm near Glasgow.

This funding will be used to develop an electrolyser and storage facility designed by ITM Power and BOC, in partnership with ScottishPower. Once the electrolyser is operational,  it will be producing between 2.5 tonnes and four tonnes of green hydrogen each day.

“In the weeks following COP26 in Glasgow, it has never been more important to champion projects like this one, which embraces new hydrogen technology while creating highly-skilled jobs,” said the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack.

As with the Green Distilleries Fund, the finance for the Whitelee project has come from the Net-Zero Innovation Portfolio.

Sarah George

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