Case study - Chivas Brothers Energy Efficiency

01 Dec 2012

Chivas Brothers is the Scotch Whisky and premium gin business of Pernod Ricard. The company produces, exports, and markets some of the world's best known Scotch Whisky malts and blends, including Chivas Regal, Ballantine's, The Glenlivet and Royal Salute.

Chivas Brothers is committed to continually improving the energy efficiency of its malt whisky distilleries by adapting and improving the technologies used around the distillation process. The current programme of plant upgrades and refurbishments is delivering significant reductions in steam energy demand by installing thermo-compression units on its wash stills.

The improvements form part of a wider and long-running energy strategy to reduce demand by taking an integrated approach to heat recovery. The first generation of technologies concentrated on three main components:

  • Hot water and flash steam recovery to preheat still charges and mashing water
  • Installation of thermo-compressors on wash stills
  • Use of excess low-grade heat to produce animal feed by the evaporation of pot ale

All three of these techniques have been in place at Chivas' Aberlour distillery for over 25 years.

Thermo-compression units are designed to convert low pressure steam from the flash vessel and hot condenser to a higher pressure to allow reuse for heating purposes. The technology is able to reduce steam demand to a wash still by at least 40%.

Thermo-compressors are a known technology but are only appropriate in certain distilleries, such as those running hot condensers. The technology may not be practicable at sites with space restrictions, horizontal condenser configurations, or cool condenser technology, such as worm tubs.

Chivas Brothers undertook a careful analysis of its sites and the suitability of thermo-compressors, to guard spirit quality before implementing its rolling programme to retrofit the technology at some of its distilleries with existing heat recovery systems - a programme in place since 2005. The technology was included in Chivas' expansion of The Glenlivet distillery in 2009, where the new still house uses 20% less energy than the existing part of the site. Benchmarking of distillery performance has confirmed these savings. All distilleries employing thermo-compressors now use between 10% and 20% less energy per unit of alcohol than would be expected for their size category.

The actual carbon savings vary by distillery size and fuel type. For example, in distilleries within at least six stills, average annual reductions of 1,750 and 2,000 tonnes of CO2 have been achieved, for gas and oil fuelled sites respectively.

Chivas Brothers views energy efficiency as a continuous process of improvement, with further work planned to review emerging technologies and pilot the potential application of thermo-compressors to spirit stills.