Recycling heat from our stills


Did you know the steam which fires up Bruichladdich’s stills is also used to heat water for the radiators in our shop and offices? 

It was no mean feat to incorporate this energy-saving system amid the Victorian machinery, the valves and the pipes and the centuries-old stills. 

Head engineer Douglas Clyne, who helped devise the heat exchange system along with the late Duncan McGillivrary in 2011, explains how it came about. 

“The shop had an old oil-fired boiler – it’s still there for back-up – which used about 1,000 litres of fuel every couple of weeks,” he says. 

For making whisky spirit you have to heat water to 100° to create steam, this steam heats the stills and then cools back down to water and is effectively waste.  “We used to dump that in the old days, we just put money down the drain,” explains Douglas. 

Our man under the stills, Douglas Clyne

The heat exchange system takes any excess steam not needed to fire the still and circulates it through a water tank, heating it up so it can be used in the heating system for the visitor centre and offices above. Free heat! 

There’s another energy-saving bonus of this system too. When steam comes off the stills it’s water vapour at 100° so rather than let this cool to be re-heated, it’s fed back into a storage tank when it’s hot, to be heated up to make more steam for the stills. 

“So we don’t have to heat our water from 5° to 100° before we start to get steam,” Douglas says.

The only downside is when production shuts down so does the heating! But a super-insulated buffer tank holds the heated water to keep the offices warm long enough to cover changeovers. 

Like so! Douglas' diagram shows how it all works 

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