Clean Steam: Greener distillation processes

Article by Adam Duckett

At Islay’s 11 distilleries, the distillation process is currently powered by steam raised from fossil fuels

Brian Williamson and Chris Jackson talk to Adam Duckett about zero emission closed-loop steam

SINGLE malt. 100% Scottish barley. Aged eight years. The whisky industry is no stranger to marketing by numbers. But how about 11 distilleries on Islay using 70% of the island’s energy demand? With the distillation process powered by steam raised from fossil fuels, Islay lays claim to one of the highest per capita emissions in the whole UK.

Yet moves are under way to chart a more sustainable future with the Scotch Whisky Association agreeing a target for member operations to become net zero by 2040. With 40% of energy currently coming from renewables, industry has made progress but there is a way to go. The UK Government has launched a Green Distillery competition that has awarded more than £10m for operators to trial green fuel switching technologies including biofuel gasification and hydrogen.

This includes the site at Bruichladdich, a Victorian distillery owned by Remy Cointreau, that will pilot the first deployment of a zero-emission, closed loop hydrogen boiler developed by Jericho Energy to create steam for its stills.

Brian Williamson, CEO of Jericho, said: “With 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions stemming from low-, medium-, and high-grade heat applications, the decarbonisation of thermal operations plays a vital role in achieving global net-zero targets.”

He says 60% of emissions from the beverage industries are related to steam.

“If you think about the food and beverage industry, most people don’t realise how prevalent steam is in the production of everything that food and beverage has touched, from sanitisation to processing to distillation. There’s a steam component to just about all of them.”

So how does Jericho’s technology work? An electrolyser powered by renewable energy will produce oxygen and hydrogen for Jericho’s boiler – known as a dynamic combustion chamber.

“We bring the hydrogen and oxygen through the system on two separate fuel chains for safety,” Williamson says.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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