A new kind of biofuel, produced from the by-products of whisky and beer, could create a £55 million market in Scotland alone, its creators have claimed.

Celtic Renewables Ltd, a spin-out of Edinburgh's Napier University, is pioneering the commercial production of biobutanol, a high-value "clean" fuel capable of directly replacing petrol. The process, which was pioneered by Professor Martin Tangney, director of Napier's biofuel research centre, can also produce valuable acetone, ethenol and animal feed.

Mark Simmers, chief executive of Celtic, said that the product offered huge environmental benefits as well as a new source of revenue for distillers from material previously fit only for low-grade animal feed. Simmers said: "[Commercialisation] is still at a nascent stage but we are pretty certain it works – you can drain your car of petrol and start it with this sulphur-free alternative."

Celtic Renewables, designated a high-growth start-up by Scottish Enterprise, was spun out of Napier in June 2011, and has since received £200,000 of investment from angel investor and distillery owner Donald Houston, plus a £70,000 Smart Award.

The cash is funding commercial trials, culminating in the creation of 10,000 litres of biobutenol at the Centre for Process Innovation in Middlesbrough later this year.

Simmers said: "Not only does the product transform a low-value by-product, but it gets round the food v fuel debate."

Celtic is currently engaged in talks with the whisky industry, and also with HMRC about the duty implications of a new fuel.

Shaun Millican, technology and life science partner at accountant Johnston Carmichael, said: "We are working closely with Celtic Renewables at this critical stage in their development, advising on key issues that affect spin-out businesses including maximising available tax reliefs for potential investors and also helping get them in front of potential strategic partners."

The research project was funded by the Scottish Enterprise's "proof of concept" programme and has generated significant intellectual property value, now the subject of two patent applications. Celtic has secured an exclusive license agreement with the university to exploit the IP, with an option to buy it outright which will be exercised in late 2012.