Ethanol Plant Is Switching to Butanol
by Matthew L. Wald (New York Times) High oil prices are generally bad news for American companies, but one, Gevo of Englewood, Colo., says that $100-a-barrel oil is opening up a niche.
The company bought a factory in Luverne, Minn., that makes ethanol from corn. Ethanol replaces some petroleum but has only one main use, vehicle fuel, and it yields less energy per gallon than gasoline. Gevo will convert the plant to make a different chemical, isobutanol, one of a number of new pathways to butanol, a chemical that can be used for fuel for many other purposes.
Butanol can go into rubber and plastics, and in that role it not only replaces oil but also becomes a “carbon sink,” a place where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, can be stored after it is pulled out of the atmosphere.
…Ethanol is made by feeding sugar to yeast, which secretes the ethanol. But the same yeast ordinarily convert some of the sugar to isobutanol. Gevo tinkered with the yeast to turn off its ability to make ethanol and increase its production of isobutanol. READ MORE