Whiskey Bent and (Hydrogen) Bound - Decarbonizing the Scotch Whisky Industry

It’s been heard in many a pub: “Liquor may not be the answer, but it’s worth a shot.” You could make the same argument for hydrogen. While many question whether it will ever make economic sense to use hydrogen as a supplement to — or replacement for — natural gas on a large scale, others insist that hydrogen has a great future as a climate-friendly fuel, assuming it receives sufficient developmental support from government and ESG-minded industry. As it turns out, an early test of hydrogen’s potential is coming from the liquor industry itself, or more specifically, the maker of a renowned single-malt scotch on the Isle of Islay, off Scotland’s western coast. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the distiller’s hydrogen production and combustion project and the broader plan by members of the Scotch Whisky Association and Scotland itself to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within a generation, largely through the expanded use of hydrogen.

Not everyone likes the energy transition, and it may not happen nearly as fast as some hope, but the world is in the early stages of a shift to lower-carbon energy sources that is likely to have a massive impact on the oil and gas industry. Given this expectation, we’ve been blogging with increasing frequency about the low- or zero-carbon energy alternatives being implemented and explored. We’re doing this not only to discuss the challenges inherent in switching from energy sources that have driven extraordinary economic growth over the past 100 years but to highlight the opportunities that the energy transition may present to savvy companies within the oil and gas sector who, after all, know a thing or two about efficiently producing large volumes of energy commodities and transporting them to where they are needed.

Hydrogen has been front-and-center in all this, in part because, if it’s produced via renewables-powered electrolysis or via steam methane reforming (SMR) with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), it can serve as a low-carbon supplement or even substitute for more traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels. We won’t go into the nitty-gritty of hydrogen production this time around — we’ve covered it plenty in the past if you need to get up to speed. We started off with a three-part hydrogen primer (see our Help! blog series), and also reviewed hydrogen production pathways (You Can Make It If You Try), the logistical structure of the U.S. hydrogen market (Been Around a Long Time), and one of the biggest planned hydrogen projects to date (Tangled Up in Blue).

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