New boiler is in the right spirit for whisky distillery

The new boiler
The new boiler

A Northumberland-based biomass firm has been crossing borders to help a drinks manufacturer fulfil its green energy ambitions, in the process adding another unique project to its diverse portfolio.

The newly-built Ncn’ean distillery, located on the Morvern peninsular in the West Highlands, aims to produce whisky in a way that works in harmony with nature, and is believed to be the first wholly organic distillery in Scotland.

The company’s barley is organic, it uses its own spring water and the used grain feeds the farm cattle. Therefore, it was vital that the means of powering this operation also fitted with Ncn’ean’s environmentally-friendly ethos.

Ncn’ean looked into its options and decided that a woodchip boiler would be ideal for its needs, offering a low carbon footprint, low running costs, and, being in a part of Scotland with plenty of commercial forestry, fuel could be easily transported, minimising both costs and pollution.

But there was a catch. Unlike most UK biomass boilers, distilling is an industrial process which requires steam, not just hot water.

Enter re:heat, Alnwick-based biomass energy experts with years of experience in fitting renewable heating systems tailored to their clients’ individual requirements.

Travelling to Scotland from his Northumberland base, director Neil Harrison was keen to understand the unique specifications of the unusual Ncn’ean project and the challenges that would be faced in the course of its completion, including the remote location.

Thankfully, all challenges were met and the 850kW woodchip boiler system has now successfully finished its commissioning and first period of operation, reliably providing low carbon, low cost steam for the distillery.

The boiler also heats the distillery office, visitor centre and toilet block and one of the two whisky maturation sheds. It will save more than 230 tonnes of CO2 each year compared to running its oil equivalent.

Neil said: “This was a really exciting project to be part of. It is satisfying to see the boiler in place and working so well.”

Ncn’ean distillery first became operational in March 2017 and the first bottled whisky will be available in 2020, although a few select barrels are already available. Visit the website at www.ncnean.com