Sunday, May 25, 2008

The New Ethanol?

Enthusiasm for an alternative fuel called biobutanol is heating up. Recent studies by DuPont and BP show it can safely be blended at a higher level than ethanol.
Biobutanol has a slightly longer hydrocarbon chain, which means it is more similar to gasoline than ethanol. The difference from ethanol production is primarily in the fermentation and distillation process - which has made it more costly to produce than ethanol in the past. Biobutanol is made using the same feedstocks (sugar cane, corn, straw, wheat and other energy crops) as ethanol.

Studies show biobutanol could be safely blended at 16% concentrationThe study indicates biobutanol could be safely blended at 16% concentration without compromising performance and without alteration to conventional vehicle engines. By contrast, ethanol is generally blended at a 10% concentration, the maximum level at which major automakers warranty its use.

"On the basis of the vehicle test results we are now sharing, we believe that high octane butanol offers a way to break through the 10 percent constraint with ethanol in the current vehicle fleet," says BP Biofuels Business Technology Manager Ian Dobson.

Biobutanol has received increasing attention in recent months as the high cost of feedstocks for ethanol and biodiesel have reduced margins for biofuels producers.

DuPont is partnering with BP to produce biobutanol for use as a biofuel. Butanol is currently used as a chemical feedstock but high production costs have limited its use as a transport fuel. DuPont, a science-based products and services company, is targeting metabolic pathways to move butanol closer to realization as an economic biofuel.

In this partnership, DuPont and BP, one of the world's largest energy companies, hope to deliver by 2010 a superior biobutanol manufacturing process with economics equivalent to ethanol.

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