Beam Suntory celebrates successful trial of hydrogen-powered distilling

Beam Suntory celebrates successful trial of hydrogen-powered distilling

The Project WhiskHy trial using hydrogen to power direct-fired distillation took place at Yamazaki Distillery in Japan and was undertaken in partnership with Beam Suntory's project partner, Supercritical Solutions

News | 11 Apr 2024

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Beam Suntory is celebrating a milestone in its WhiskHy project as green technology trials have proven that hydrogen is a viable fuel source for direct-fired distillation.


The trial, conducted at Yamazaki Distillery with project partner Supercritical Solutions, is a world-first achievement for hydrogen-powered distilling in whisky production.


As part of its Proof Positive sustainability strategy, Beam Suntory has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and is pursuing the implementation of green technologies across its global distilleries.


In 2021, the WhiskHy project received funding from the UK government to test the practical use of hydrogen-based decarbonisation technology on-site at Beam Suntory-owned distilleries. The funding was awarded through the Green Distilleries competition, which forms part of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, with the project having made considerable advancements towards zero-emission distilling at an industrial scale.


Suntory’s Yamazaki team in Japan carried out the trial using their pilot distillery, specifically designed to support innovative research and development. 


The hydrogen-powered direct-firing process undertaken on the pilot distillery’s stills used a pure hydrogen flame instead of indirect heating by steam coils. This has been key to the WhiskHy project as it offers the potential to cut carbon emissions by up to 100 per cent.


A part of the distilled spirit will be casked in Scotland at Glen Garioch, where it will be quality assessed as it matures. The Glen Garioch distillery recently underwent a £6 million renovation project to reinstate traditional malting floors and direct-fired stills.


As part of Project WhiskHy, Supercritical Solutions has advanced its proprietary technology, the first ultra-efficient, high-pressure electrolyser, which would enable a distillery to produce and store hydrogen on-site, powered by local renewable power sources. The development of Supercritical’s electrolyser recently reached a milestone of its own: the establishment of its green hydrogen demonstrator in northeast England, an essential step in the journey to commercial-scale deployment.


Alistair Longwell, head of distilling and environment at Beam Suntory, commented: “As a company, we are intent on pushing the boundaries of green innovation. We have an ambition to achieve net-zero emissions across our entire value chain by 2040, and it is through unique collaborative projects such as WhiskHy that we will get there. We are thrilled to have achieved this new milestone and look forward to continuing our progress with Supercritical as we pursue a more sustainable, resilient future for our industry.”


Matt Bird, CEO of Supercritical, added: “The WhiskHy project at Beam Suntory's renowned Yamazaki Distillery has been a testament to the engineering prowess and dedication to net-zero innovation within the group. This landmark trial not only marks a significant stride in hydrogen fuel advancement but also sets the stage for ongoing progress and collaboration. Our partnership with Beam Suntory is poised to remove the premium of green hydrogen, leveraging our cutting-edge technology for a sustainable future.”

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