Introduction to Biobutanol
• Some literature on butanol by biochemical or
ethanol conversion route is discussed briefly
o Butanol is a flammable alcohol that can
be made from fossil fuels like petroleum.
o Also, by a bioprocess from renewable
sources such as corn grain or stalks, cobs,
or other agro-wastes.
o In the petroleum industry, butanol has been
reserved mainly for the solvent and
cosmetics markets, which tend to bring
higher prices, rather than the motor fuel
o The term biobutanol refers to butanol made
from renewable resources such as grain or
cornstalks by fermentation process.
o Solvent –for paints, coatings, varnishes
o Plasticizers –to improve how a plastic material processes
o Coatings –as a solvent for a variety of applications,
o Chemical intermediate or raw material –for other chemicals
o Textiles –as a swelling agent from coated fabric
o Cosmetics –makeup, nail care products, shaving products
o Drugs and antibiotics, hormones, and vitamins
o Gasoline (as an additive) and brake fluid (formulation
o Butanol can be used to power your car.
o It is safer than gasoline, will give you better
o It will increase the amount of energy derived
from biomass in comparison to ethanol—by
o We could mitigate CO2 emissions quickly by
doing something that is applicable to every
gasoline-consuming car already on the road.
Reasons for not going for fuel butanol earlier:
o The A B E fermentation process yields only 1.3 gallons of
butanol/bushel of corn, whereas yeast fermentation produces 2.52
gallons of ethanol/bushel of corn.
• Its low final concentration (0.6%) compares poorly with that of
ethanol from yeast fermentation (10–15%); the 1–2% alcohol
concentration in the A B E- fermentation combination is sufficient
to kill the fermenting bacteria.
• Butanol’s boiling point (117°C) is higher even than that of water. At
the 1–2% final batch concentration, there is a lot of water to boil
off, which is expensive..
Production breakthrough reported
• Environmental Energy, Inc.(EEI), an Ohio
company led by David E. Ramey, reported on its
website www.butanol.com a breakthrough _yields
of 2.5 gallons of butanol per bushel of corn.”.
It has developed a process which makes
―fermentation-derived butanol more
economically viable and competitive with
current petrochemical processes and with the
production of ethanol.‖
David E. Ramey: ―How could butanol yield be increased
and production costs decreased?‖ I solved 3 major
problems with the ABE process by:
• increasing the yield of butanol from 1.3 gallons/bushel
of corn to 2.5 (thus making it similar to that of ethanol by
• overcoming the problem of the low final concentration
of 1–2% by developing a recovery process that removes
the solvents continuously and precludes accumulation to
a level lethal to the microbe; and
• solving the expensive recovery problem associated with
the high boiling point by sparging carbon dioxide
(produced by the fermentation) through the broth,
stripping the butanol and then letting a gravity process
increase the concentration before removing the
In his butanol production method, Ramey takes the
approach of using two types of microbes in two
separate process steps. The first pass
optimizes the production of hydrogen and butyric
acid, while the second pass converts this acid into
butanol. Each step utilizes a different Clostridium
strain. The article reported that other processes had
also tried the use of multiple bacteria strains, but
within the same slurry, making Ramey’s separation
The patent EEI holds is U.S. No. 5,753,474:
―Continuous Two Stage, Dual Path Anaerobic
Fermentation of Butanol and Other Organic
Solvents Using Two Different Strains of Bacteria.‖
Some of the EEI work has been done through a
U.S. Department of Energy research grant, a
collaboration between Ramey and Shang- Tian
Yang, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular
Engineering at Ohio State University.
New Catalysts to Convert
Ethanol to Butanol Fuels
Submitted by admin on April 23, 2013
by Chris Hanson (Ethanol Producer Magazine)
Researchers from U.K.’s University of Bristol reported
the development of new catalysts that are able to
convert ethanol to butanol at the national meeting
and exposition of the American Chemical Society.
Duncan Wass, professor at the University of
Bristol …and his group said
the new catalysts are similar to those used
in modern petrochemical technology,
potentially allowing existing ethanol
producers to avoid high retrofitting costs
while allowing for the production of both
ethanol and butanol.
Unlike current technology, Wass said the
new catalysts are more selective and yield
95 percent butanol out of the total products
from each batch in laboratory-scale tests.
Density at 20°C (g/cm³)
Boiling Point at 1 atm (⁰C)
Water Solubility at 20⁰C (g/100mL
Net Heat of Combustion (BTU/gal)
Blend RVP (psi at 100⁰F) 1
Biobutanol Projecting the 3rd
Molecule Fermentation Separation
vacuum flash in situ 2010 Operating pilot in
removal followed by St. Johns, MO. 2011
Cobalt Biofuels Clostridium
Non GMO strain n-buoh for
reduced etoh blending
Continuous modified vapor compression
Semi batch "AB"
Clostridiums Aceto GMO & mutant n-buoh
Syngas Biofuels Fermentation of
2010 pilot 10-35k gpy
2011 demo 2-5m gpy
2009 300 liter bench
stripping continuous 2010 10,000 liter pilot
in situ removal
Continuous two stage stripping following
dual path anaerobic
Status Butanol Companies
Many unknowns remain for the future of butanol.
Certainly the work of BP and DuPont and of
Environmental Energy, Inc. - and any others who enter
the butanol efforts - will be observed with interest.
Will butanol production reach a cost effective level?
Will it reach commercial scale viability? If these
milestones are achieved, does it compete with or
At this point, it’s more questions than answers on the