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WhiskHy project awarded £2.94M to advance high pressure zero emission hydrogen technology

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November 24, 2021

WhiskHy, a consortium led by Supercritical in collaboration with partners Beam Suntory and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has been awarded £2.94 million as part of Phase 2 of the Green Distilleries Competition funded through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. This follows the successful completion of a three-month feasibility study for its green hydrogen-based decarbonisation technology at Beam Suntory’s Ardmore distillery. This additional funding will enable the consortium to scale up this technology and conduct an industrial hydrogen trial at Beam Suntory’s Glen Garioch distillery in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire.

Beam Suntory's largest Scottish distillery, Ardmore
Beam Suntory's largest Scottish distillery, Ardmore

Supercritical, the UK based clean-tech startup developing the world’s first high pressure, ultra-efficient electrolyser has partnered with Beam Suntory, a world leader in premium spirits, exploring the potential for zero emission hydrogen use in whisky distilling.  Zero emission hydrogen, produced by splitting water powered with renewable energy, can completely replace fossil fuels used in the distilling industry. Hydrogen’s ability to be stored for long periods of time and to combust without carbon dioxide emissions at comparable temperatures to fossil fuels make it an ideal solution to transition the whisky industry to net zero.  In the UK alone, switching to green hydrogen would reduce emissions by 530,000 tCO2e per year.

Over the course of the 21-month project, Supercritical will advance its technology and complete an industrial hydrogen trial at Beam Suntory’s Glen Garioch distillery to produce circa 57,000 bottles of hydrogen-distilled whisky. It is believed that these bottles will represent the first hydrogen fired bottles of whisky ever created at industrial scale. The quality of the spirit will be assessed by Beam Suntory’s experts over the course of the project and beyond as the unique spirit matures, with finished product ready to be responsibly enjoyed sometime after 2025.

Supercritical was incorporated in June 2020, with a novel approach to water electrolysis and an experienced team to make it happen.  Now, with the technology demonstrated in the lab, Supercritical uses the WhiskHy platform to scale up module capacity and build out the system.  The core technology being developed under WhiskHy also has huge potential in other hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as chemicals, heavy industry and transport. Investment in this project will see long term transferable decarbonisation benefits to the wider energy system.

Beam Suntory, whose premium portfolio of globally renowned brands, including Scotch whiskies, Glen Garioch, Teacher’s, The Ardmore, Bowmore, Laphroaig and Auchentoshan, launched its Proof Positive sustainability strategy this year - a set of long-term commitments to contribute to a more sustainable, equitable future, supported by a $1 billion investment. These commitments include an ambition to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and to go beyond net zero across its entire value chain by 2040. Beam Suntory sees huge potential in green hydrogen as a fuel for their distilleries and believes that Supercritical’s technology will support their net zero ambitions.

With the funding, Supercritical plans to double the size of its team, providing skilled jobs and developing expertise in the UK’s green hydrogen sector. Valuable supply chain contribution across the UK has been identified and work has either started or will be commencing imminently with multiple product and service providers.  

Partner to the project is the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The MTC will support Supercritical in developing some of the core processes in the development of their novel technology.  The MTC was established to prove innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile environment in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions and is focused on supporting companies and the UK achieve Net Zero.

Matt Bird, CEO at Supercritical said, “Supercritical is thriving in today’s drive to decarbonise and leading the transition for change in the UK’s clean-tech sector. We welcome this continued support to bring our next generation electrolysis technology to the next level to help decarbonise the whisky sector in the UK, and look forward to the export opportunities that it will facilitate in zero-emission whisky as well as electrolyser technology.”

Alistair Longwell, Senior Manager, Scotch Distillation & Maturation Operations at Beam Suntory, added: “We are very pleased to extend and expand upon our partnership with Supercritical, and we are looking forward to hosting these industrial trials at our Glen Garioch distillery. Innovative technologies like Project WhiskHy will be critical in securing a green future for our industry, and for our planet, and we’re proud to play a role in making this green future a reality, in line with our Proof Positive commitments.”

Huw Sullivan, Sector Lead for Hydrogen said: “The Manufacturing Technology Centre is delighted to be supporting the development of Supercritical’s hydrogen clean energy technology. Supporting the delivery of Net Zero, including hydrogen, is core to our vision for future UK manufacturing. Through our Liverpool, Midlands and South East facilities, we are supporting the next generation of green manufacturing technologies to ensure clean growth, stimulate investment in the UK supply chain and create and safeguard UK jobs, notably in hydrogen.”

To follow the WhiskHy project, go to our Case study page.

For more on Beam Suntory’s sustainability strategy, Proof Positive.

About Supercritical

Supercritical is developing the world’s first high pressure, ultra-efficient electrolyser, for the production of hydrogen and oxygen from water, with zero emissions. By using heat and pressure Supercritical's proprietary design allows them to exploit the benefits of supercritical water and deliver gases at over 200 bar of pressure, without the expense or challenges of hydrogen compressors. With this, Supercritical will deliver the lowest cost of pressurised green hydrogen.

About the MTC

The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) was established to prove innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile environment in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions.  

Housing some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment in the world, creating a high quality environment for the development and demonstration of new technologies on an industrial scale, the MTC provides a unique opportunity for manufacturers to develop new and innovative processes and technologies.

The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.

About the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) brings together responsibilities for business, industrial strategy, science, research & innovation, energy & clean growth, and climate change.  

This funding has been made available from the government’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which looks to accelerate the commercialisation of low-carbon technologies and systems, through its Green Distilleries competition.  The Green Distilleries competition is providing funding for developing technologies that enable the use of low carbon fuel in a distillery.

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