First scotch, now vodka.
William Chase, founder of Chase Vodka, has launched a plan to convert waste potatoes from his U.K. distillery into a high-grade biofuel for vehicles.
“We have known for a long time that potato starch is an excellent source of bio fuel, but this new scheme will tap the resources left behind in distillery waste,” says William Chase, who heads the Herefordshire, U.K., distillery.
The vodka-to-biofuels strategy sounds similar to a process used by Scottish researchers to turn whisky by-products into butanol.
Like those experimenting at Scotland’s Glenkinchie Distillery, Chase uses pot ale, the fluid left behind from the distilling process, to make biobutanol, which it says is more efficient than such other biofuels as ethanol.
“Biobutanol is believed to be the next generation of biofuel,” William Chase says. “It gives internal combustion engines 30% more output power than ethanol. And more importantly it can fuel ordinary cars without the need for expensive adaptations to the engine.”
The U.S. Department of Energy concurs, saying biobutanol boasts an energy density closer to gasoline and few modifications are required to run a conventional vehicle on a biobutanol-gasoline mix. The biobutanol also can be blended with ethanol to increase the biofuel content in gasoline, the DOE says.
The fuel is compatible with the current gasoline-distribution infrastructure and “would not require new or modified pipelines, blending facilities, storage tanks or retail station pumps,” the DOE adds.
Current ethanol processing facilities could be converted into biobutanol facilities with only minor modifications, the agency says.
Such second-generation biofuel projects have been hailed as being more environmentally friendly, as they divert waste from landfills and reduce the need to convert food crops to fuel sources.
A £2 million ($3.1 million) project could get started in the next two years, Chase says. A large-scale endeavour probably wouldn’t be viable before 2030, he adds.
Chase is not the first potato pioneer to consider converting his leftovers into fuel.
Canada’s McCain Foods Ltd. also has been exploring the use of potato waste as a source of biofuel, and U.S.-based food producer H.J. Heinz Co. has announced a goal of extracting 390 billion BTUs of energy from potato biofuel.
Heinz’s project is at the research and development stage in Oregon.
Currently, Chase Distillery is producing small amounts of biobutanol from potato waste, which the company uses to power some of its farm vehicles and machinery, a spokeswoman says.