On the way to a CO2-neutral distillery with hydrogen
11/21/2023 Experts Know-how

On the way to a CO2-neutral distillery with hydrogen

Many European governments have high hopes for hydrogen as a key element in the further development of the energy transition. Hydrogen is a solution for industrial decarbonization, especially for processes that require high temperatures and are difficult and expensive to electrify. Green hydrogen is produced from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. This process produces no CO2 emissions and is therefore an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.

A scottish distillery captured from the distance

Use of green hydrogen in the beverage industry  

In some countries, the beverage industry is one of the largest energy consumers. By using green hydrogen as an energy source, breweries and distilleries can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. In breweries, hydrogen can be used primarily for energy generation and heat production – for example, for climate-neutral process heat in boiler systems.  


Example Scotland – whisky distilleries 

In Scotland, distilleries make up a large part of the Scottish industry and face many challenges when it comes to decarbonization. The production of whisky alone generates more than 500,000 tons of CO2e/year. The Scotch Whisky Association has therefore committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. 

Scottish distilleries have already shown considerable interest in the introduction of hydrogen. The Scottish Hydrogen Action Plan has prioritized the use cases for hydrogen. Distilleries have been placed in the second highest category. The annual hydrogen demand for all distilleries in Scotland is estimated at 1.4 TWh. This makes them the third largest potential source of demand for hydrogen in Scottish industry. 

Despite the progress made to date, the use of hydrogen in Scottish distilleries is still in the early stages. For most distilleries, the decarbonization of heat generation is largely linked to the decarbonization of steam generation, as heat demand is met by steam generated in boilers. There are a number of industry suppliers who are starting to launch boilers and burners that can run on hydrogen mixtures of up to 100%.  


Scottish distillery relies on hydrogen 

Smart Scottish whisky distillers are proving that the combination of renewable energy, electrolysis and hydrogen steam boilers works and results in products with a negative CO2 equivalent. The Stirling brothers are very confident about hydrogen for their whisky distillery: “Our environmentally friendly, hydrogen-compatible boiler generates the steam we need for distillation. We distil the world’s first climate-friendly gin and vodka, Nadar. Nadar has a climate impact of -1.54 CO2e per bottle and is used worldwide in sustainable cocktail menus and climate-friendly drinks,” says Iain Stirling, one of the brothers who own the Arbikie Highland Estate, on which the Arbikie Distillery of the same name is located. 

This whisky distillery, which claims to be the first in the world to produce climate-neutral (in this case even climate-positive) high-proof spirits, is a direct result of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. Since then, the Arbikie Distillery has succeeded in implementing an energy system that is powered entirely by green hydrogen. The newly installed system includes a 1 MW wind turbine, an electrolyzer for hydrogen production, storage units and a hydrogen boiler system. This makes it possible to move away from conventional distillation processes and instead switch to emission-free green hydrogen produced on site. 

This project has been funded by the UK government, which is providing more than £11 million to help up to four spirits producers transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen and biogas. This measure is part of the “Green Distillers” competition, which is part of the UK government’s Net Zero Innovation portfolio. 


HYDROGEN DIALOGUE 2023 – The event for the national and international hydrogen economy 

Green hydrogen is the future for many industries looking to reduce their environmental footprint. The brewing industry can play a pioneering role in the introduction of green hydrogen technologies. At the HYDROGEN DIALOGUE 2023 – Summit & Expo powered by Handelsblatt Hydrogen Summit Update on December 6 and 7, 2023, national and international experts from politics, business and science will come together at NürnbergMesse to exchange know-how and solutions on the subject of hydrogen. 


Hydrogen for Scottish Distilleries, A research study, Ricardo Energy & Environment, ref. ED17718, Issue 4, June 2023
Trend Report, TBN Public Relations GmbH, Fürth