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With significant forest cover biomass is an important source of energy in Scotland. ETP universities are working with industry to contribute to the development of the Bioenergy industry in Scotland to reduce CO2 emissions, add to the carbon sequestration potential, enhance rural economies and help meet renewable energy targets.

ETP expertise in Bio-Energy
Biomass production systems 

Sustainable production of biomass for bioenergy is essential to meet the low carbon agenda. ETP scientists are working on agronomy of short rotation coppice, and a range of oil seed crops suitable to grow in Scotland. Micro and macro algal crops are also being investigated. A key barrier to the biological processing of lignocellulosic crops for liquid fuels is being studied and biochemical and genetic solutions are being sought. Land use, life cycle analysis and carbon modelling are all being investigated to ensure the development and deployment of sustainable systems. 

Supply Chain 

Harvesting, transport, storage and pre-processing of biomass are key elements in the supply chain which are being studied by ETP engineers.

Thermochemical Conversion 

There is a range of thermochemical process that can use biomass as a source of fuel. Biomass can be combusted, gasified or pyrolysed to produce heat, electricity, transport fuels and even hydrogen. Key issues being addressed by ETP scientists are fuel characterization, characterization of emissions, catalytic processes to convert syngas from gasification into Fischer-Tropsch hydrocarbons. 

Physical-Chemical Conversion 

Bio diesel can be produced from crops rich in lipids such as oil seed rape or algae, or animal fats via physical extraction of the oil and then transesterification. Key issues being addressed are fuel characterization, processing the co-products and engine testing. 

Biological Conversion 

Anaerobic digestion can be utilised to breakdown organic materials such as vegetable processing co-products, seaweeds or domestic wastes in a controlled process to produce methane. The methane can be burnt directly to give heat, upgraded and injected into the gas grid or converted to hydrogen via steam reforming. All aspects are being investigated by ETP universities.

Fermentation of sugar or starch rich biomass, either from crops or co-products from the biomass processing industries can be used to produce ethanol or butanol, depending on the type of microorganisms used. 

Microbial fuel cells 

These are devices which utilize the catalytic reaction of microbes to convert chemical energy to electrical energy, i.e. the direct conversion of organic matter to electricity using bacteria. These have a range of potential applications including clean-up of contaminated water.


The scientists and engineers within ETP embrace many different disciplines to further their research and development of Bioenergy technologies:

  • Terrestrial and marine biomass production systems
  • Plant breeding
  • Chemical and materials characterisation Resource economics and land use studies Carbon and lifecycle analysis Technoeconomic analysis
  • Biochemical processing Bioengineering Thermochemical processing Catalysis
  • System design
  • Process engineering 

Scottish Energy Laboratory (SEL) - Bio-Energy facilities

In partnership with ETP energy sector test facilities have been brought together under the Scottish Energy Laboratory (SEL) umbrella. Facilities of particular relevance to bio-energy are:


Edinburgh Napier University SEL 12 Scottish Energy Centre
University of Strathclyde SEL 18 Energy Technology Test Facilities
Energy Technology Centre

SEL 27 Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Test Facilities

SEL 28 Mechanical Test Facility - component and subsystem testing

TUV NEL SEL 31 Thermal Engineering Test Facility
Doosan Babcock Limited SEL 32 Large Scale Component Testing for Wind, Marine, Oil & Gas Structures
National Hyperbaric Centre SEL 33 Carbon Capture Test Facility
The Scottish Association of marine Science (SAMS) SEL 37 SAMS Research Services Ltd. (SRSL)- development of acoustic mapping systems

For more details visit

Case Study - Brathadair Ltd

The Scotch Whisky industry is one of the most productive industries in Scotland. During the production of Scotch malt whisky, a large volume of pot ale is produced. Pot ale is a concentrated liquid-solid mixture, rich in COD and nutrients, whose disposal causes significant costs. Also, pot ale contains a significant amount of copper which prevents its use as sheep feed (copper is toxic to sheep) and causes additional environmental concerns. Brathadair Ltd has been developing micro-bubble technology that can effectively separate the solid from the liquid and assist in cleaning up the waste water. Brathadair Ltd came in contact with ETP through Interface and linked to Heriot-Watt University to identify specific protein that act as surfactant. Later, the company looked for copper content in pot ale, at University of Aberdeen through ETP. Recently, they received a Kick start award from Scottish Enterprise for further development of their technology.

Case Study - Celtic Renewables

Latest news -
Celtic Renewables lands £11million grant after winning DfT competition

Celtic Renewables is the biggest winner in a competition run by the Department for Transport (DfT), earning an £11million grant to help it build the world’s first plant dedicated to the production of advanced biofuel from the residues of the whisky industry. The Edinburgh-based company is one of three advanced biofuel producers to share in a £25million funding pot.
Celtic Renewables is commercialising an innovative and patented technology, originally developed by the Biofuel Research Centre (BfRC) at Edinburgh Napier University.

Scotland’s £4 billion malt whisky industry produces more than 2 billion litres of pot ale and 600,000 tons of draff annually, which are problematic low value by-products from the whisky production process. The innovation is based on the ABE (Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol) fermentation process which uses bacteria to convert the residual sugars in the draff and pot ale into bio-butanol – a next generation biofuel – and four other high value commodities. To assist in the scale-up of this innovation from bench-top in the laboratory to pilot commercial scale, and to develop more understanding of the metabolism of the bacteria involved in the process, ETP has supported a studentship in research collaboration with Prof. Martin Tangney, Edinburgh Napier University and Celtic Renewables.

“Most countries do not have oil but all have access to biological material that can be converted into biofuels that can establish their own energy security.” Prof. Tangney, Biofuels, Whiskey and Me.

David Green joined the team at Napier University under the ETP studentship program. He is very excited about working on a research project that has a direct commercial impact and is of benefit to society as well.
"As a young research scientist it is very exciting to be at the forefront of such cutting edge research. I feel privileged to have this opportunity, I will not waste it".

David has the opportunity to work with industrial co-workers as well as two main supervisors (Prof. Martin Tangney and Dr. Eve Bird). David found that the main research challenge is bending clostridia to his and the laboratory's will; bugs will be bugs! His previous studies include optimising alcohol yields for the whisky industry and maximizing bioethanol production from waste substrates.

Mark Simmers, CEO Celtic Renewables Ltd, shared his view on receiving supports from ETP.                      

“The development of a new process technology requires a strong technical base in an organisation, and the ETP support has enabled Celtic Renewables to increase the capacity of its technical team, which will hopefully shorten the time-to-market for the technology.”



News Articles


This bio-energy facility is an example of how the whisky industry can embrace the 'circular' economy. By generating bio-energy from its waste products, Diageo is showing how one of Scotland’s most traditional industries can deliver carbon savings and wider environmental benefits.

The Glendullan plant optimises energy output using waste products from the distillation process. The project involved close collaboration between Clearfleau’s in-house design, installation and commissioning engineers, their counterparts from Diageo, and an extended supply chain.

Keith Miller, Distillation and Maturation Director, Diageo, said: “We’re very proud of our record in investing in cutting-edge sustainable technology at our distilleries. The bioenergy plant at Glendullan is the most recent example of how we use innovative technology which harnesses the potential of the natural raw materials we use in the distillation process to generate renewable energy.”

Initial results indicate the Glendullan bio-energy facility is generating 2 million m3 of biogas per year – producing about 8,000MW hours of thermal energy for the distillery, based on processing up to 1,000m3 of distillery waste products on a daily basis.

Clearfleau’s on-site AD technology converts a range of waste products into valuable biogas that generates renewable heat for use in the distillation process while reducing a major overhead, its waste product disposal costs. By reducing costs and benefiting the local environment, Diageo is setting an example to British food and beverage companies (including other distillery sites).

Clearfleau’s unique liquid anaerobic digestion system can achieve a reduction in COD load of greater than 95%, minimising additional treatment required for discharge of cleansed water to the river Fiddich. The facility will also reduce the site’s fossil fuel based energy costs.

Craig Chapman, Chief Executive Officer, Clearfleau, said: “This project, a result of close collaboration between Diageo and Clearfleau, shows how British technology can enable a traditional but energy intensive Scottish business sector to embrace the circular economy, reduce its costs and create a more sustainable basis for production.

“However, wider adoption of this technology requires on-going support for renewable energy. The Scottish and British Government should be working together to support the development of indigenous renewables technologies and their adoption in a range of industry sectors, helping to deliver our long-term sustainability targets.”

Engineering challenges involved developing a plant able to handle higher strength materials such as pot ale, as well as the variability of strength and volume of feedstock being fed to it. They also included the location of the plant on a sensitive location in a valley adjacent to the river Fiddich and achieving the complex water course discharge standards.

Clearfleau’s unique liquid digestion system delivers a reduction in COD load of greater than 95%, minimising additional treatment required for discharge of cleansed water to the river Fiddich. The discharged water is carefully monitored in terms of COD removal, biogas output and microbial performance, protecting the regions’ important aquatic eco-system.

Lord Dunlop, Scottish Office Minister, added: “The commitment to powering distilleries like Glendullan with sustainable energy, recycled from the waste products of the whisky-making process , is also exactly the right thing to do. Good for the planet, good for the whisky industry and good for the Scottish economy.”

Read more here.

The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.

Tha Oilthigh Obar Dheathain na charthannas clàraichte ann an Alba, Àir. SC013683.

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