IBHL has invested in an integrated system of energy-efficient technology at the site, which is one of the oldest distilleries in Speyside (having been founded in 1824) and produces close to three million litres of alcohol per year for the company's own blends and the blended Scotch whisky market.
At the heart of the new system is an anaerobic/aerobic digestion (AD) system which will generate renewable energy for the distillery and help to reduce its carbon footprint significantly. The system will process liquid by-products from the distillery's whisky production to create bio-methane gas, which will feed a combined heat and power engine to generate power. It has been integrated with the site's existing biomass boiler, which is fuelled with locally sourced wood pellets and produces zero-carbon steam.
The new AD system process about 130m3 of whisky by-products each day to produce 2,000m3 of clean bio-methane gas. This generates approximately 30,000kW of energy each week, 25,000kW of which is used to power the site (the remainder is exported to the national grid).
As well as reducing the CO2 emissions for each litre of alcohol produced from 1.5kg to 0.5kg, the system is also improving the distillery's energy efficiency – it is now using 6.8kW hours to produce one litre of alcohol, compared with 7.8kW on the previous system. The new system also cleans and returns 40 per cent of the distillery's processing waters (e.g. from condensers) to the distillery's water course, the Cromdale Burn.
The renovation project at Balmenach is IBHL's biggest sustainability investment to date and contributes a large step towards the company's goal of using 100 per cent renewable energy for production by 2040.
The company’s group distillery manager Sean Priestley said: "At IBHL there is a culture of genuine accountability for the environmental impact of our production process, which means we have been striving for cleaner, greener whisky production many years ahead of the current Scotch Whisky Association’s sustainability target of net zero by 2040.
"The system we’ve built at Balmenach has been challenging, but a combination of investment, innovation, partnership working and perseverance are paying off, resulting in the significant reductions we are able to report in emissions and energy use today, which will only increase over time."
IBHL managing director Malcolm Leask added: "The completion of our £4 million project at Balmenach leads our ambition to decarbonise production and achieve industry-leading standards of sustainability in the future. Sustainability is a long-held and central commitment in our business, from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index listing of our parent company ThaiBev to the daily efforts of our distillery teams across Scotland to respect and care for the local land, lochs and rivers that surround them.
"This is one of the industry’s oldest distilleries and it wasn’t built for efficiency. But nearly 200 years on, the improvements we are seeing in terms of energy use, emissions and efficiency show just what is possible in sustainability at such a historic site."