Monday, November 30, 2009

Biobutanol Finds a New Home in the UK

Whereas ethanol is around about two-thirds the energy density [of gasoline], with butanol we're in the high eighties [in terms of percent].

It's less volatile [than ethanol]. It isn't as corrosive, so we don't have issues with it at higher concentrations beginning to eat at aluminum or polymer components in fuel systems and dispensing systems. And it's not as hydroscopic--it doesn't pick up water, which is what ethanol can do if you put it in relatively low concentrations. So we can put it through pipelines. _TechnologyReview
BP and DuPont are building a new UK demonstration and development plant for production of biobutanol from biomass.
Kingston Research will construct a facility to scale-up technology to manufacture biobutanol from renewable feedstocks. The technology package will then be provided to Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, also a BP-DuPont joint venture based in the United States, which has been formed to commercialize and market biobutanol. (Earlier post.)

Biobutanol is a new lower-carbon fuel and we are excited about demonstrating this technology in the Humberside region. Biobutanol is a biofuel that can be made from all the same crops as bioethanol and can be blended into petrol at higher levels, which means that we’ll be able to introduce biofuels more quickly. In the future, it will be possible to convert bioethanol refineries to produce biobutanol, allowing this industry to make an even larger contribution to meeting the world’s energy needs.
—Luc Van Den Hemel, Kingston Research Limited General Manager

The BP site at Hull is also home to Vivergo Fuels, a joint venture between BP, British Sugar and DuPont. Vivergo is constructing a world-scale bioethanol facility that will begin producing bioethanol in 2010 and will play a major role in meeting the UK’s requirements for biofuels. _GCC

Butanol is a far superior renewable fuel than ethanol, but present yields are much lower. Industrial chemists, microbiologists, and engineers are working overtime to bring up the yields for butanol-from-biomass closer the levels achieved for ethanol. Since butanol is much easier to separate from water than is ethanol, overall costs for butanol may soon drop below those for producing ethanol.



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