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Whisky production from a pilot distillery in Japan has adopted a new approach. It utilizes 100% hydrogen as its fuel source for direct-fired distillation. This initiative is part of the WhiskHy project and funded by the UK Government. It was taken on by Beam Suntory, renowned for brands like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, along with Supercritical Solutions. The trial took place at the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery in Osaka, Japan. The aim was to demonstrate the potential of achieving Net Zero distilling.

Direct firing, traditionally using a flame instead of steam coils for heating, typically relies on natural gas. However, in this “world-first” trial, they only used hydrogen to heat the still, marking a significant departure from conventional methods

According to statements, the hydrogen used in the trial was local and not yet certified as green. Nevertheless, in subsequent phases, the companies intend to produce hydrogen locally from renewable sources, ensuring its classification as green.

Moreover, adopting 100% green hydrogen could eliminate carbon emissions from the distilling process entirely. Alistair Longwell, Head of Distilling and Environment at Beam Suntory, stressed the significance of collaborative efforts like WhiskHy in achieving their ambition of Net Zero emissions across their entire value chain by 2040.

Part of the whisky produced will mature at Beam Suntory’s Glen Garioch Distillery in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. This project has received substantial support, including £2.9m in funding from the UK Department for Energy Security & Net Zero’s Green Distilleries competition. Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, voiced his excitement over the milestone achieved by these companies.

Supercritical Solutions previously presented its green hydrogen water electrolysis method in November 2023. They aimed to enable distilleries to produce and store hydrogen on-site. Their membrane-less, iridium, and compressor-free solution seeks to address supply chain challenges and reduce green hydrogen production costs.

Matt Bird, CEO of Supercritical, hailed the Japanese trial as a significant advancement in hydrogen fuel technology, laying the groundwork for further developments. Plans are underway to introduce 100% green hydrogen at the Glen Garioch Distillery, continuing the trajectory of sustainable innovation in the industry.

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