Biobutanol is an alcohol that can be produced from biomass (renewable, organic material). Biobutanol can be used as biofuel to fuel cars and other vehicles. It is generally blended with gasoline. Biobutanol can also be used alongside ethanol to help improve ethanol’s performance in a gasoline blend.
Biobutanol can be made from many types of biomass. Potential feedstocks include corn, wheat, sugar cane, sugar beet and, in the future, non-food lignocellulosic materials.
How is biobutanol different from ethanol?
Biobutanol has several characteristics which make it an attractive biofuel component. These include:
- Biobutanol has an energy content closer to that of gasoline, compared with ethanol, so consumers face less of a compromise on fuel economy. This is particularly important as the amount of biofuel in the fuel blend increases.
- It has a low vapor pressure meaning it can be easily added to conventional gasoline.
- Biobutanol does not require automakers to compromise on performance to meet environmental regulations.
- It can be used in higher blend concentrations than ethanol without requiring especially adapted vehicles.
- Fuel specifications in the US, for example, allow biobutanol to be blended to 16% by volume versus 10% by volume for ethanol, without risking any compromise on performance, durability, fuel economy or emissions. We believe that blend limits for biobutanol to be used in existing vehicles may be even higher.
- Combined with biobutanol's higher energy content than bioethanol, a 16% by volume biobutanol blend offers consumers the same fuel economy as a 10% by volume bioethanol blend while providing double the energy from renewable sources.
- Biobutanol/gasoline blends are less susceptible to separation in the presence of water than ethanol/gasoline blends. This allows biobutanol to use the industry's existing distribution infrastructure without requiring modifications in blending facilities, storage tanks or retail station pumps.
- Environment Footprint: Biobutanol's chemical properties already allow it to be blended at 16% by volume in gasoline, thereby displacing more gasoline per gallon of fuel consumed than the standard 10% by volume ethanol blend. The 16% by volume biobutanol blend also has the potential to reduce GHG emissions further than the 10% by volume ethanol blend, given similar biorefinery site and process specific conditions. Lifecycle analysis is used alongside process development and economic evaluation to guide the research and development team to the most sustainable biobutanol design.
When will biobutanol become a component in fuels on sale to consumers?
Butamax™ Advanced Biofuels will be developing the technology to produce biobutanol to a point where it is cost-competitive with ethanol. When the technology is commercial, the component will be available to be blended into fuels. As biobutanol has significant advantages over ethanol, we expect there will be a significant market demand for biobutanol.