Diageo introduces pioneering green technology at distillery

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 13th August 2008

Diageo, the world leading premium alcoholic drinks business, has announced plans for a pioneering bioenergy facility at Scotland’s largest distillery, Cameronbridge in Fife, as the alcohol industry heightens their focus on sustainability.
Following two years of rigorous research, Diageo, which makes leading global brands including Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Baileys and Smirnoff, has signed a formal partnership agreement with energy management company, Dalkia, to create the new facility.

The £65 million development will generate major environmental benefits and is set to place Scotland at the forefront of green technology on the world stage, according to Diageo.

The facility will for the first time integrate sustainable technologies – including anaerobic digestion and biomass conversion – on a commercial scale. It will be the largest single investment in renewable technology by a non-utility company in the UK and is set to reduce annual CO2 emissions at the site by approximately 56,000 tonnes (equivalent to taking 44,000 family cars off the road).

The proposed facility, which is subject to planning approval, will recover 98% of thermal steam and 80% of electrical power at the distillery. Dalkia will construct the facility over the next two years and it will then transfer to Diageo under a finance lease, while continuing to be managed by Dalkia.

“This will be a showcase bioenergy facility which harnesses a variety of green technologies in a project of an unprecedented scale,” claimed Bryan Donaghey, Managing Director, Diageo Scotland.”It is without question the right way forward in terms of environmental benefits and secures the long-term sustainability of our operation, moving the site away from reliance on fossil fuels.”

The bioenergy facility will generate renewable energy from ‘spent wash’ – a mixture of wheat, malted barley, yeast and water – produced during distillation. The spent wash is separated into liquid and dried solids. The liquid is then converted, via anaerobic digestion, into biogas and the dried solids form a biomass fuel source.

Around 90,000 tonnes of co-products, which would have required transport off-site by road, will be turned into bioenergy in the form of electricity and steam for use at the distillery. The facility will also recover almost a third of the site’s water requirements.

Campbell Gemmell, CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), applauded the announcement. “SEPA welcomes the use by industry of efficient, sustainable energy sources. We are very supportive of new and developing technologies that can help protect Scotland’s environment and make a meaningful contribution to tackling climate change,” he said.

Diageo is not the first alcohol business to endeavour to reduce their carbon footprint, with Tasmanian-based Cascade an example of the growing trend toward sustainability. Cascade, a subsidiary of Foster’s, has already introduced ‘Cascade Green’ with the promise that it is 100% carbon offset.