Research engineers at Ohio State University in the USA said they have developed a new strain of the bacterium Clostridium beijerinckii in a bioreactor containing bundles of polyester fibres, that produced up to 30 grams of butanol per litre.
Previously, at a rate more than 15 grams per litre concentrations of alcohol, the tank fermentation tank would become too toxic for the bacteria to survive.
Biobutanol is an emerging biofuel, prized for its higher energy density than ethanol, and for its ability to be blended at higher concentrations than ethanol without requiring changes in infrastructure – the vaunted “drop-in fuel” replacement for petrol.
As reported in Biofuel Digest, the research team explained: “Today, the recovery and purification of butanol account for about 40 per cent of the total production cost. Because we are able to create butanol at higher concentrations, we believe we can lower those recovery and purification costs and make biofuel production more economical.”
The researchers said they believed they could bring the cost of butanol production below AUD 1.00 per litre.
In Delaware last month, BP and DuPont announced the commencement of commercialisation of their butanol venture, which will be named Butamax Advanced Biofuels. According to the joint venture partners, Butamax Advanced Biofuels was formed to develop biobutanol – an advanced biofuel that will provide improved options for expanding energy supplies and accelerate the move to renewable transportation fuels which lower overall greenhouse gas emissions.”
Butamax combines BP’s expertise in fuels technology, development and infrastructure with DuPont’s leading capabilities in biotechnology, and is located in Wilmington, Delaware.
Two other US-based ventures are working on butanol-based solutions, Cobalt Biofuels and Gevo. Gevo recently received an investment from oil major Total, while Cobalt Biofuels has raised capital from a high-profile list of venture funds, including Pinnacle Ventures, Vantage Point Venture Partners, Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, @Ventures, LSP and Harris and Harris. Cobalt is raising capital for a demonstration plant, based on a small-scale, community-based funding and feedstock model.