Supercritical, a UK-based clean-tech startup incorporated in 2020 and developing the world’s first high-pressure, ultra-efficient electrolyser, has partnered with Beam Suntory, a world leader in premium spirits, to explore the potential for zero-emission hydrogen use in whisky distilling.
Zero-emission hydrogen, produced by splitting water powered with renewable energy, could completely replace fossil fuels in the distilling industry. Hydrogen’s ability to be stored for long periods of time, and combust without carbon dioxide emissions at comparable temperatures to fossil fuels, makes it an ideal way to help the whisky industry transition to net zero. In the UK alone, switching to green hydrogen would reduce emissions by 530,000 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) per year.
, the consortium led by Supercritical in collaboration with partners Beam Suntory and Coventry's Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), has now been awarded £2.94 million as part of Phase 2 of the Green Distilleries Competition funded by the UK government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
This grant follows the successful completion of a three-month feasibility study on WhiskHy’s green hydrogen-based decarbonisation technology at Beam Suntory’s Ardmore distillery. The additional funding will enable the consortium to scale up this technology and conduct an industrial hydrogen trial at Beam Suntory’s Glen Garioch distillery in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire.
Over the course of the 21-month project, Supercritical will conduct the trial to produce circa 57,000 bottles of hydrogen-distilled whisky. It is believed that these bottles will represent the first hydrogen-fired bottles of whisky ever created at industrial scale. The quality of the spirit will be assessed by Beam Suntory’s experts over the course of the project and beyond as it matures, with finished product ready to be enjoyed sometime after 2025.
The core technology being developed under WhiskHy’s remit also has great potential in other hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as chemicals, heavy industry and transport. Investment in this project should see long-term transferable decarbonisation benefits to the wider energy system.
Beam Suntory, which launched its Proof Positive
sustainability strategy this year (a set of long-term commitments to contribute to a more sustainable, equitable future, supported by a $1 billion investment), and Supercritical are partnering on WhiskHy with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). The MTC is part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult and was established to prove innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile environment in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions, with a focus on supporting companies and the UK achieve Net Zero. The MTC will support Supercritical in developing some of the core processes in the development of their novel technology.
Matt Bird, CEO at Supercritical said, “Supercritical is thriving in today’s drive to decarbonise, and leading the transition for change in the UK’s clean-tech sector. We...look forward to the export opportunities that it will facilitate in zero-emission whisky as well as electrolyser technology.”
Alistair Longwell, senior manager of Scotch distillation & maturation operations at Beam Suntory, added, “We are very pleased to extend and expand upon our partnership with Supercritical, and we are looking forward to hosting these industrial trials at our Glen Garioch distillery. Innovative technologies like Project WhiskHy will be critical in securing a green future for our industry, and for our planet, and we’re proud to play a role in making this green future a reality, in line with our Proof Positive commitments.”
Huw Sullivan, MTC sector lead for hydrogen, said, “The Manufacturing Technology Centre is delighted to be supporting the development of Supercritical’s hydrogen clean energy technology. Supporting the delivery of Net Zero, including hydrogen, is core to our vision for future UK manufacturing. Through our Liverpool, Midlands and South East facilities, we are supporting the next generation of green manufacturing technologies to ensure clean growth, stimulate investment in the UK supply chain and create and safeguard UK jobs, notably in hydrogen.”