The UK’s ‘Green Distilleries Competition’

The Green Distilleries Competition is a UK government-led initiative to support the development of low-carbon fuel alternatives for the distillery industry. The competition’s first phase involved feasibility reports submitted by 31 distilleries, which were assessed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The results of the assessment showed:

  • The proposals ranged from developing hydrogen and bioenergy projects to switching to renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency.
  • The successful proposals were awarded a share of £10 million in funding to support their development and testing in phase 2 of the competition.
  • The ultimate goal of the competition is to reduce the distillery industry’s carbon emissions, which currently contribute to approximately 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually in the UK
  • 17 projects were invited to proceed to phase 2 of the competition.

From Phase 1, a feasibility study completed by InchDairnie Distillery was of particular interest to the Irish market as the study assesses how a distillery can reach net zero by 2030 using a combination of biomethane produced from a local AD plant, hydrogen produced onsite and hydrogen delivered by tube truck. During discovery, it was found that InchDairnie would need to take a phased approach to its development due to constraints of catalytic converter technology availability and hydrogen tube truck delivery. This meant that the first hydrogen-producing asset in their road to net zero was onsite electrolytic hydrogen production. Click HERE to read the results from InchDairnies phase 1 report.

Image 2. Schematic of ideal system model reached by 2030 in InchDairnie Distillery feasibility study.

There are many more projects of interest specifically to Irish distilleries who are considering hydrogen use cases. We have collated a list of these projects with links to the feasibility studies below:

  • The Uist Distilling Company Ltd.– Using hydrogen to heat thermal oil to replace steam in the distillation process.
  • Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery (Discussed in detail below) – The distillation process via direct fuel switching from fossil fuels to hydrogen.
  • BEIS – Use of Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) for Decarbonizing the UK Distillery Industry.
  • WhiskHy – Supercritical electrolysis system powered by renewables in combination with waste heat
  • HySpirits2 – The project will assess four different technology pathways to facilitate green hydrogen fuel-switching in the distilling sector.
  • Hy/BioDDP: Hydrogen/Biofuel burners for Distillery Decarbonised Power.
  • BatGasDW: Batch Gasification of Distillery Waste Biomass for renewable distillery fuel.
  • St. Andrews Brewers Ltd. – Two-Stage Distillation via Renewably Powered Heat Pump & Hydrogen.
  • Project HyLaddie – Feasibility of deploying a Dynamic Combustion Chamber (DCCTM) to combust hydrogen to generate industrial-grade steam.

Phase 2 of the Green Distilleries Competition will provide £11.32 million in funding to 4 projects to continue the development of their proposed fuel switching concept or solution through to demonstration, therefore, further building on the outputs from their Phase 1 feasibility study. The Arbikie Distillery project is of most interest to the Irish market and will be explored in further detail below.

Arbikie Distillery, winner of £3 million funding from BEIS Green Distilleries competition

Image 3. Arbikie Distillery, winner of £3 million funding from BEIS Green Distilleries competition

Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery is determined to find a low-carbon alternative to gas oil to further improve their already impressive sustainability and environmental credentials. They were selected for Phase 2 in partnership with Locogen and Logan Energy and received £3 million to finance the development and installation of a green hydrogen energy system at the distillery, comprising 3 MW of wind turbines, 1.75 MW of solar, a 2.18 MW of electrolyser capacity, 1 ton of hydrogen storage and a 3,000 kg/hour duel-fuel boiler system. Arbikie will save over 4kg CO2e per litre of alcohol produced.

The use of hydrogen as a fuel to displace gas oil was found to be a relatively simple technical conversion. In this case, a separate dual-fuel burner and boiler are required as the existing system in place does not meet the safety requirements for burning hydrogen. There is no retrofit needed to replace any pipework after the boiler. There will therefore be no disruption to business as usual operations and in production of the spirit.

The financial results of the phase 1 feasibility study seen in image 4 shows how funding from BEIS has made this ‘world’s first’ project at Arbikie commercially feasible.

Image 4. Financial Results from Phase 1 of Arbikie Distilleries feasibility study.

A crucial output will be investigating the replicability of this solution to other distilleries and industries, assessing the business case and technical barriers. If you would like to read more about this project please click HERE or watch the webinar hosted by Locogen, development partners for the Arbikie project below.

WATCH NOW: How to decarbonise distilleries – The story of Arbikie Highland Estate


Simon Leonard, Head of Business Development and Power Procurement

Simon holds a Masters in Energy Systems Engineering with a focus on the Irish Green Hydrogen Economy and has worked on the commercialisation of green hydrogen in both ESB, Ireland’s biggest energy company and EIH2, Ireland first dedicated green hydrogen company. 

Simon’s role at EIH2 sees him explore the business case for hydrogen with companies who are transitioning away from fossil fuels and also partnering with renewable developers for electricity supply to EIH2 sites. Reach out to Simon today if you want to learn more about the green hydrogen opportunity. 

About EIH2 

EIH2 has assembled some of the most experienced and competent professionals in the Irish hydrogen sector. Our interdisciplinary team is here to facilitate the emerging hydrogen industry and assist ‘hard-to-decarbonise’ sectors in Ireland to achieve their emissions targets. 

EIH2 is the only dedicated hydrogen developer in Ireland, therefore, the team understand the unique challenges faced in project development. The time for hydrogen is now, as signaled by the launch of REPowerEU and EIH2 are helping companies to unlock the decarbonising potential of green hydrogen. Reach out today to learn more.

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