A SCOTTISH landowner and investor has moved to accelerate ground-breaking biofuel plant technology and production in a move that could also provide a boost to Scotch producers across the country.

Donald Houston, of Ardnamurchan Estates, is described as the catalyst for three companies, in which he has a substantial stake, to bring forward the launch of potentially world-beating biofuel technology.

Ardnamurchan Distillery, Woodlands Renewables and Celtic Renewables have joined forces for the push which involves what is described as Scotland’s first bio refinery, based in Grangemouth.

Celtic Renewables has so far attracted £43 million of investment for the new bio refinery that will be able to produce one million litres of sustainable biochemicals a year.

It is claimed five further large-scale refineries are planned worldwide in the next five years.


The bio refinery plant will use Celtic Renewables’ patented technology to convert 50,000 tonnes of biological material into renewable chemicals, sustainable biofuel, and other commercially and environmentally valuable commodities.

Mr Houston said Celtic Renewables needs a by-product of whisky distilling called pot ale to assist in its testing process before starting full production of its biochemicals and biofuel.

“The pot ale is piped over the hill from the distillery to the neighbouring Woodland Renewables, a local business set up to repurpose the distillery’s by-products whilst adding value to the local economy,” he said. “At the Woodland Renewables plant it is combined with draff (another distillery by-product) and turned into a nutritious animal feed used on the peninsula to feed local livestock. Woodland Renewables will transport part of their pot ale stock to Celtic Renewables.

“Since the launch, sustainability has been a major component of Ardnamurchan Distillery’s overall strategy. Looking at new ways to improve their sustainability and circular economy, this innovative technology developed by Celtic Renewables fits perfectly with the distillery’s objective.”

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Alex Bruce, Ardnamurchan Distillery managing director, said: “We designed the Ardnamurchan Distillery to be as sustainable as possible, and we continue to monitor and develop this as new technologies become available. Our energy all comes from local renewable sources (hydro and biomass) and our co-products, which are traditionally produced in all distilleries, are supplied to our neighbours, Woodland Renewables.

“From there they add value to the local circular economy by providing highly nutritional animal feed to livestock on Ardnamurchan, and we are incredibly excited that they also now deliver additional value to Celtic Renewables for conversion into sustainable chemicals and biofuels. This combination is a fantastic example of collaborative, high value and sustainable long-term investment in the Scottish economy.”

HeraldScotland: Celtic Renewables' chief executive Mark Simmers and president and founder Professor Martin TangneyCeltic Renewables' chief executive Mark Simmers and president and founder Professor Martin Tangney

Professor Martin Tangney, Celtic Renewables founder, said: “These tests we will be conducting with the whisky residue are the culmination of the lab work we started at Edinburgh Napier University in 2008 which led to the formation of our company in 2012.

“The substantial equity investment that enabled us to spin-out Celtic Renewables came entirely from Donald Houston.

“Since then, we have gone on to raise over £43 m in multiple rounds and Donald has contributed consistently along the way.”

Mr Tangney added: “Donald took the risk on us when we had nothing more than a lab-based research project but with ambition for global domination, and he has been both a committed financial investor and a stalwart investor in the people and the concept behind the company ever since.

“Once in production we will have contracts for consistent supply of significant volumes of pot ale from the Scotch whisky industry. With the plant being commissioned we needed an ad hoc supply of pot ale on demand. Donald has stepped in to meet that need, to get us through to the full production phase.”

Mr Houston also said: “This long-term investment strategy rather than the usual short-term commonly offered to start-ups, is crucial to the health of our economy.”

The deal value has not been disclosed.