Effects of alternative uses of distillery by-products on the greenhouse gas emissions of Scottish malt whisky production: a system expansion approach

I Leinonen, M MacLeod, J Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Agricultural by-products are an important component of livestock feed. In Scotland, distillery by-products are protein rich and traditionally cost competitive feed ingredients in cattle production. However, during recent years, distilleries in the UK (including Scotch whisky producers) have started to use the by-products also as a source of renewable energy, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of alcohol production. In this study, a systems-based material and energy flow analysis was performed to calculate the life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of whisky production for two scenarios where distillery by-products were used either (1) as beef cattle feed to replace other protein sources (namely soya bean meal and rapeseed meal); or (2) as anaerobic digester (AD) feedstock in order to generate renewable energy (heat and electricity). System expansion was used to quantitatively handle the by-products in the analysis. The results show that considerable reductions in GHG emissions could be achieved by either replacing feed crops with by-products or by using the by-products in AD plants to generate bio-energy. The biggest reductions in the GHG emissions were achieved when by-products were used to replace soya meal in animal feed. However, the results are highly sensitive to methodological choices, including the accounting method of the land use change emissions arising from soya production.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1473
Pages (from-to)1 - 18
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Early online date8 May 2018
Publication statusFirst published - 8 May 2018


Bibliographical note



  • Agricultural by-products
  • Beef
  • Cattle
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Livestock feed
  • Renewable energy
  • Whisky production

Cite this