-> 2011 -> Bruichladdich flicks the Switch for Biowaste

Diciadain, 02/Mar/2011

Bruichladdich flicks the Switch for Biowaste

Islay Whisky News & Links in stencil

Considering it's a project three years in the making it seems to have received relatively little attention (unless I've missed something). But at least there was almost live blogging on the Bruichladdich Blog. The topic is of course the anearobic waste digestion system for pot ale, the first not only on Islay, but as far as I understand also in general. This week was the moment of truth, would it actually work:

Picture of a distillery with two large green tanks on one side

When I was on Islay in October I visited the distillery on a rather dreich day, you can still see some part of the installation on the picture though. The two big silos on the left. Not functional at the time, the team from BioWayste was busy installing it in October 2010. Very simply put these two silos (and a bit more machinery you can't see in the picture) will take care of all the electricity needs of Bruichladdich distillery. Not to forget a few more benefits.

From what I understand the whole thing works as follows (keep in mind I gave up biology after tenth grade in school): One of the waste products of whisky distilling is what is called pot ale, which so far was pumped into tankers, driven to Caol Ila and pumped into the Sound of Islay.

Picture of an anearobic waste digestion system being installed

Now the pot ale is pumped into the silos, where some microbes get to work. They eat any organic components in the pot ale and while they digest it create lots of gas. Gas of the flammable kind. This gas is captured and pumped to a generator, the generator is powered by the gas and generates electricity, enough to provide for all the distillery needs of electricity (and more). What remains of the pot ale once the microbes are finished is plain water, which doesn't need to be tankered across the half the island.

As mentioned in the intro this week was the moment of truth after a long buildup: At the end of January there was just a Biogas Progress update, highlighting a minor roadblock. This was overcome in Jobsworths. Two days later they were a Step Closer to Power Self-Sufficiency. On Monday this week they were almost there, Sparks Will Fly. And finally today there was a New Generation.

This means a lot to Mark Reynier and his team, congratulations for pulling it off and showing that it can be done!

This will not only benefit Bruichladdich distillery (free electricity once the investment into the system has been paid off, which if I remember correctly will be in a few years), but also Islay in general. Starting with the reduced environmental pollution of traditional electricity generation in general, but also reducing the need for road tankers taking the pot ale to Caol Ila, in turn reducing the strain on Islay's crumbling road network.

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