InchDairnie is a state-of-the-art Scotch whisky distillery in Fife, Scotland, with sustainability and innovation at the forefront of its business. Energy-efficient methods of distillation have been adopted since production commenced in 2016, however, recent targets set by the Scotch Whisky Association for the industry to reach net-zero by 2045 have placed new pressures on the distillery to reduce its carbon emissions further.
The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) awarded funding to the InchDairnie distillery and Arup as part of its ‘Green Distilleries’ competition, which aims to support the industry in reducing its carbon footprint.
Our team of sustainability specialists have helped assess the feasibility of replacing natural gas with hydrogen during distillation to achieve net-zero ahead of the Scottish government’s official target. Decarbonising distilleries can be challenging, but our work is helping to understand how current distillation processes could be adapted to pioneer change in the industry.
90% of distillery’s process emissions from natural gas usage
1,500 tonnes of CO₂ per year reduced to zero by fuel-switching
Leaving fossil fuels behind
A previous assessment of the distillery’s carbon footprint showed that 90% of its process CO2 emissions come from the natural gas used in heat during distillation. Transitioning from natural gas to hydrogen provides an effective route to decarbonisation.
We explored the possibilities of fuel switching to hydrogen by taking a different approach. Many distilleries often look internally e.g. what is possible from onsite renewables, however we deliberately looked outside the bounds of the site to consider multiple sources. The review has demonstrated biogas use from a local Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plant is a viable alternative and will support the transition from InchDairnie’s current 100% natural gas supply and will also assist with short-term circular economy benefits.
This approach enables a more resilient operation by ensuring continued supply should one source fail, and potentially reduces costs for InchDairnie in the longer term by removing the need to pay carbon taxes on natural gas supply.
Our work with Arup has contributed to important knowledge sharing across the industry to accelerate the achievement of carbon neutrality. While the findings of the study raise the challenges for our net zero goal, they have opened new opportunities for us to transform to move towards a more sustainable future ” Ian Palmer Managing Director, InchDairnie Distillery
Achieving net zero carbon
Our work with InchDairnie aimed to take a whole-system approach to decarbonisation that used a combination of renewable electricity generation, waste to energy, and decarbonised gas. We have brought together key stakeholders, data from a variety of sources and carried out techno-economic modelling to determine feasible actions that can decarbonise the distillation process using hydrogen. Based on this study, we advised InchDairnie to follow a transitional approach that achieves carbon reductions over time and would see carbon emissions reduce by 15% in 2022, before ultimately becoming carbon negative through the introduction of carbon capture by 2030.
The feasibility study has demonstrated that using hydrogen power within Scotch whisky distillation is technically feasible to secure a net zero carbon future. Technology and innovation have been part of InchDairnie’s story since its origins and we are helping unlock the technologies that support the next stages of its decarbonisation journey.