Powering on with hydrogen project
The Botanist gin takes a day to distill – 23 hours to be exact – from loading up to being cool enough to empty; and it uses a lot of power to get that alcohol up through the neck of the still and infuse through those delicate hand-foraged 22 Botanicals and extract the essences which give our gin its unique complex taste.
It’s all done at our Victorian distillery at Bruichladdich on the Isle of Islay. Our lovely copper gin still – Ugly Betty – is heated by steam, which is created by heating water to boiling point in our boiler. We recycle as much heat as possible, and insulate everything to prevent waste, but it still uses a lot of energy. Our current boiler runs on oil and this summer we switched to a cleaner oil – Furnace Flame – which emits 5% less CO2 that other Medium Fuel Oils. This is one step towards decarbonisation.
The Botanist, along with the rest of the Remy-Cointreau family of businesses, is aiming for full decarbonisation by 2050 and decarbonising our distillation process by 2025 within scope 1 and 2 (from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol) which means a tight focus on how we power distillation including the emissions we directly create and the heat and power we buy in. Decarbonising means finding a system which sustainably reduces and or compensates the emissions of carbon dioxide and equiavlent gasses (CO₂e).
We’re looking at electrification; we’ve changed our arrangements so that we can guarantee that the electricity we use each year – which is the equivalent of powering 797 homes – is coming from renewable sources. And we have high hopes for our pioneering hydrogen project which will make this sustainable gas the future power source for our distillation process – including running Ugly Betty.
Making our own energy
In January Bruichladdich was awarded funding for a feasibility study on incorporating hydrogen combustion technology at Bruichladdich. This would mean we could create and use our own energy onsite. It’s a very new technology, so there was a lot of background work required.
But that work has paid off and today we are delighted to announce we have been given £265m of funding from the Government’s Green Distilleries pot, so that we can progress to the next stage of making a hydrogen combustion unit that creates the heat we need for distillation a reality.
Distillation takes a huge amount of power and currently leaves an undesirable carbon footprint – we need the power to create steam for Ugly Betty to distill The Botanist. This £2.65m allows us and our partner Protium, to produce a pioneering sustainable green hydrogen energy technology solution, taking us significantly closer to making distillation carbon neutral, which ultimately means we don’t need to use fossil fuels for distillation.
We and Protium will be able to install an on-site Dynamic Combustion ChamberTM (DCCTM), a zero-emission hydrogen boiler patented by Jerico Energy Ventures’ (TXZ-V; JEV; OTC; JROOF) wholly-owned subsidiary Hydrogen technologies LLC and licenced to Protium’s subsidiary, Deuterium, as a mechanism to meet heating requirements
Renewable and sustainable energy solutions
Renewable and sustainable forms of energy like wind power, solar power, biomass fuels could also play a part in the mixture of solutions we need for the whole distillery. We’ve been finding out a lot about tidal initiatives, but aren’t able to count on them. Generation aside, there are problems with distribution of this power, getting them into the grid. And there are problems with storing it. Batteries are expensive, they are massive, and they use valuable resources like rare minerals.
We also cannot ignore that we are on an island, without easy access to some of the energy infrastructure available on the mainland. We’re conscious that on an island of nine distilleries and counting, we need to look at all-island solutions and work together to overcome the barriers of cost, infrastructure, secrecy form things like non-disclosure agreements and share and pool our knowledge and resources.
We’re looking at our energy use across the business – from boiling a kettle to running the stills, from the source of our electricity to how we run our fleet of vehicles – as well as decarbonisation.
Bruichladdich CEO Douglas Taylor sums it up: “We’re not limited in our thinking but we have to be pragmatic about the limits in implementation. There isn’t one obvious solution for us, or for everyone.
There are no questions about whether we’ll get there, just about how.