Chivas Brothers puts collaboration ahead of competition

Chivas Brothers puts collaboration ahead of competition The Glentauchers Distillery near Keith in Speyside, Scotland, where Chivas Brothers reduced the site’s total carbon emissions by 53%. Pic: Peter Moore @Creative Commons.

Founded in 1786, Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky business of Pernod Ricard and maker of global brands such as Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet, has made the expertise and learning from its successful integration of enhanced heat recovery technologies ‘open source’.

The move was made after the application of the technology at its Glentauchers Distillery site showed significant benefit in carbon emissions reduction, providing insights that will benefit the industry at large if adopted at other suitable distillation sites.

The sharing of its design process and implementation insights is intended to put collaboration ahead of competition on the road to ‘Net Zero’, rooted in the belief that distillers must work together to create a sustainable future for Scotch, Scotland’s largest export.

The heat recovery technologies, including mechanical vapour recompression (MVR) and thermo vapour recompression (TVR), are designed to capture and recycle heat generated in the distillation process that would otherwise go to waste.

Slashing consumption

To date, these have reduced total energy consumption almost by half (48%) at the Glentauchers Distillery, near Keith in Speyside, Scotland, reducing the site’s total carbon emissions by 53% as a result. This represents an energy saving equivalent to powering 4,979 average UK homes!

The business’ ambitious plans are part of a drive to achieve carbon neutral distillation by the end of 2026. A series of open-house events will take place to allow distillers to see the technology and how it has been integrated, with a view to “demystify some of the recurring hurdles” around this type of technology.

Chivas Brothers expects these technologies to reduce its overall energy consumption and carbon emissions in distillation by one-third, which is more than 30,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum, or the equivalent of 67,226 UK homes.

While not suitable for application in every distillery, the company estimates that if these technologies were applied by the wider industry’s malt distilleries alone, this could equate to a saving of some 1,756 GW/hour per year – enough to power 6,05,000 average homes for a year.

Open source

Commenting on the ‘open source’ move, Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, said: “Findings with such significant impact must be shared. This technology has the potential to transform our industry and accelerate its progress to ‘Net Zero’.

“That is why today, we’re making our design process and implementation learning available to all”, he continued. “As a business with a long history of innovation, we believe this is the right thing to do. Collaboration across our industry will be fundamental if we are to meet collective ambitions around sustainability, safeguarding the long-term future of our product and our planet.”

A case study has been published by Chivas Brothers outlining the benefits and savings achieved, plus additional details on the basis of the design used.

The company will also host a series of dedicated events, creating an opportunity for other distillers to see the technology, how it has been integrated and how it will facilitate industry learning.

The company’s recent successes in heat recovery are a continuation of its 2021 pilot programme, which achieved energy reductions of 88% on a single pot still and showcased the potential if adopted across distillery operations.

The pilot programme at Glentauchers was part-funded by the Scottish Government through the Scottish Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, which aims to support de-carbonisation and energy efficiency in Scotland’s industries.

Scottish Government Energy Minister, Gillian Martin, said: “Chivas Brothers has led the way with an innovative approach which has halved energy consumption at their Glentauchers distillery. Sharing this breakthrough with the wider whisky industry has the potential to advance efforts to reach ‘Net Zero’ across the sector.”

The successes of this programme are shared with the company’s supplier, Piller Blowers & Compressors, manufacturers of high-performance blowers and compressors for the process industry, whose team worked alongside Chivas Brothers to adapt its technology for distillery applications.

As a result, the technology achieved a co-efficient of performance of 12, meaning for every 1kWH of electricity input, 12 units of heat were generated. This level of performance is essential if the technology is to make a meaningful contribution to carbon reduction.