Orkney distilleries going green with hydrogen

It’s powerful stuff at the best of times, but now whisky and gin made in Orkney is playing a key role in efforts to save the planet from climate change and boost a sustainable economic recovery as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

Two local spirits producers – Highland Park and Orkney Distilling - are taking part in an innovative project exploring the use of hydrogen as a green fuel source for their distillation processes.

The HySpirits 2 initiative is being led by Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), with £58,781 of backing coming from the UK Government’s Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The project, which follows on from an earlier HySpirits feasibility study into the decarbonisation of the distilling process at the Orkney Distillery, will test four different types of green hydrogen fuelled technologies. The one that proves best after a rigorous assessment will be used to design a demonstration project for the whole distillery sector.

Edinburgh’s Napier University is also playing a key role in the project, with its industrial decarbonisations team leading the pilot study design and hydrogen technology tests.

Funding for the initiative was awarded through the BEIS Green Distilleries Competition, a £10 million fund aiming to help UK distilleries decarbonise through innovative fuel switching projects, including those focusing on low carbon fuels such as hydrogen. Phase 1 of the competition focuses on technology feasibility whilst Phase 2 of the programme will target real world technology demonstration for selected projects.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Building back greener from the pandemic is something we can all raise a toast to. Every business can play a part in the green industrial revolution and this funding will allow UK distilleries to lead the way by making their production cleaner while also creating jobs.”

James Walker, hydrogen manager at EMEC, added: “HySpirits 2 is a really exciting project, offering us the opportunity to evaluate innovative applications for green hydrogen in the decarbonisation of distilling, which is a sector of great importance to the economy in Scotland, and within Orkney.

“Hydrogen offers a potentially very compelling alternative fuel for producing high grade heat in industry. With many distilleries located in remote areas off the natural gas network and using fuel oils to generate process heat for malting and distilling, there is great scope for applying the findings from our project to a cross section of the wider industry.

“We look forward to working with Highland Park and Orkney Distilling Ltd, building on learnings from our first HySpirits project, to continue to support decarbonisation in the distilling sector.”

Visit the Highland Park and Orkney Distilling websites to find out more about their products.

The Promoting Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

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