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Distillery upgrade leads sustainability drive

05 June 2023

International Beverage Holdings Ltd (IBHL) has completed a £4 million upgrade at Balmenach, which will place the Speyside distillery amongst the greenest operating in the Scotch whisky industry.

IBHL has invested in an integrated system of green technology at the site, which produces nearly 3 million litres of alcohol per year for the company’s own blends, as well as the blended Scotch market. It is also home to the company’s super-premium Scottish gin, Caorunn.

At the heart of the project is a new Anaerobic/Aerobic Digestion (AD) plant which uses micro-organisms to break down the liquid co-products of whisky production, allowing them to be processed on site. This process produces clean bio-methane gas which feeds a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) engine to generate power for the distillery and the grid, integrated with an existing biomass boiler which uses locally-sourced wood pellets to produce zero-carbon steam for the system. 

Having paused the development during the pandemic, the site is now fully operational, and is having an immediate impact in terms of significantly reducing the Distillery’s overall carbon footprint:
• Renewable energy: each day approximately 130m3 of whisky co-products are processed to produce 2,000m3 of clean bio-methane gas which feeds a CHP Engine to generate renewable steam. This meets 100% of the distillery’s energy requirements, producing 30,000kW of energy per week, 25,000kW of which is used to power the site (with the remaining 5,000kW exported to the grid);
• Improved energy efficiency: results to late 2022 report a reduction in distillery energy use from 7.8kWh to 6.8kWh per litre of alcohol produced;
• Reduced Co2 emissions: from 1.5kg to 0.5kg per litre of alcohol produced.
• Water efficiency: the system cleans and returns 40% of processing waters back to the distillery’s watercourse.
• Reduced road transportation: a drastic reduction in the need for heavy goods vehicle movement at the site, removing 12 tankers from Spey Valley roads every week (each with a capacity of 25,000 litres);
• Efficient use of co-products: the AD plant produces a permeate stream, providing nutrient rich bio-solids for use as fertiliser by local farmers in the Speyside region.

The Balmenach project is IBHL’s biggest investment in sustainable whisky production to date. It represents a major step forward in meeting the company’s commitment to use only renewable energy for production by 2040: a goal that is made possible by IBHL’s early adoption of various clean fuel sources across its five distilleries. The business no longer uses heavy fuel at any of its sites and reduced the group’s energy consumption from 11kWh per litre of alcohol in 2005 to 6.4kWh in 2022.

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