Target For Transformation: Can Biobutanol Provide Ethanol Producers New Paths towards Diversification?
Kris Bevill (Ethanol Producer Magazine) Diversification has been a topic of interest for some time now, but this is the year producers need to move toward incorporating alternative revenue streams into their operations. High on the list of contenders is biobutanol. It offers producers the opportunity to squeeze another product out of existing corn-ethanol facilities or to entirely convert their operations to produce a fuel with chemical and transportation applications. It’s not likely to push ethanol out of the transportation fuels market anytime soon, if ever, but it has potential as a gasoline additive or in the chemicals market. Several companies poised to aggressively court the ethanol industry this year say the time is right for ethanol producers to welcome this four-carbon fuel into their stable and transform their facilities from ethanol plants to advanced fuel biorefineries.
…The BP and DuPont joint venture, Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, has formed an Early Adopters Group for existing ethanol producers who sign on to collaborate on isobutanol retrofits.
…U.S.-based Green Biologics Inc., the newly announced merger between Ohio’s butylfuel Inc. and UK-based industrial biotechnology company Green Biologics Ltd., is taking a slightly different approach to the ethanol-butanol relationship. It is seeking to partner with ethanol producers to either retrofit their plants or to bolt its n-butanol production capabilities onto existing facilities.
…(B)utanol can currently be blended at up to 12.5 percent by volume. At this level, it is defined under the Clean Air Act as being “substantially similar” to gasoline, which means it can be used in gasoline infrastructure, including pipelines and retail dispensers, without modifications. Additionally, because the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 declared that isobutanol has 30 percent more energy than ethanol, producers generate 1.3 renewable identification numbers (RINs) per gallon of isobutanol compared to 1 RIN per gallon of ethanol.
…Butanol producers also need to register their fuel with the U.S. EPA before it can be introduced for sale in the marketplace. The registration process requires the producer to disclose the fuel additive’s chemical composition and to describe an analytical technique that can be used to detect the presence of the additive in the fuel. The applicant must also complete various tests to analyze evaporative emissions, to screen for potential health effects from emissions and to provide other scientific information related to the fuel.
…Finally, butanol producers must overcome the cost of production in order to be a competitive player with ethanol.
… Stone even envisions a production model that would allow ethanol plants to produce their own 100 percent, bio-based E85 by replacing petroleum-based gasoline with butanol. “If you have a bolt-on butanol plant and you produce butanol using 15 percent of the corn volume, you could produce E85 with butanol and sell it directly to your regional distributor,” he suggests. READ MORE