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University working to tackle issue of CO2 emissions in Scotland’s distilleries

Distilleries and breweries produce close to 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year (David Cheskin/PA)
Distilleries and breweries produce close to 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year (David Cheskin/PA)

A new whisky distillery is teaming up with university experts and an engineering firm in a bid to cut its carbon emissions.

The Ardgowan Distillery is scheduled to open on the Ardgowan Estate near Greenock in 2024.

But even before it has completed the distillery, the company has set itself the target of being carbon-neutral ahead of the Scotch Whisky Association’s 2030 deadline.

To help achieve this, Ardgowan – which eventually aims to become net negative for the production of CO2 – is working with experts at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) and engineering firm Briggs of Burton to explore new carbon-reducing technologies.

The action comes as it is estimated that every year Ardgowan will produce 755,000kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the fermentation process that occurs as part of whisky production.

The company now plans to use technology from Briggs of Burton, including high temperature heat pumps, to drive down its energy use.

Experts from Heriot-Watt University will also help the company explore a wider range of carbon-reduction technologies, as well as considering how the gas can be repurposed.

With distilleries and breweries producing close to 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, Ardgowan said the work it is doing could set an example to other smaller companies – both in Scotland and across the globe.

Dr Jessica Skelton, of the Ardgowan Distillery Company Ltd, said: “The major industry players have the scale and resources to achieve their sustainability objectives.

“However, this research is so vital because it will provide practical guidance and technologies at a scale that’s within the reach of the many independent companies looking to capture and reuse biogenic CO2.

“It could also support companies in other markets. Whisky producers in Canada, USA and Japan often look to the Scotch whisky industry as leaders in production and operational change.”

Dr Skelton continued: “Our goal is to assess the production, capture, and potential uses of CO2 produced at our new one million litre-per-annum Scotch malt whisky distillery, finding new, sustainable uses that can be applied here and at other Scottish and international distilleries.”

Dr Dawn Maskell said the work was aiming to provide both leadership and practical solutions (Heriot-Watt University/PA)

Dr Dawn Maskell, head of Heriot-Watt’s ICBD, said: “This project provides both leadership and practical solutions for distillers, brewers, and other beverage manufacturers as they strive to address their net zero challenges.

“Through this research, we’ll be creating suitable technologies for the wider industry, especially those that operate on a smaller scale.

“Current systems can be less economical and challenging to implement and we look forward to changing that.”

Dr Scott Davies, head of marketing at Briggs of Burton, said: “Research conducted through this partnership can be directly adopted at the distillery, enabling Ardgowan to continuously assess and seek to reduce its carbon impact from the outset.”

Scott Bradley, head of business development and partnerships at Heriot-Watt University, said: “We look forward to supporting Ardgowan’s carbon-negative ambitions but also creating benefit through research for the wider industry in Scotland and abroad.

“This partnership will create a raft of new learning and innovation opportunities for our students, helping to shape the next generation of brewers and distillers.”