Process for Production of Biobutanol

Technology Overview

A renewed interest in butanol production has being observed. The advantage of biobutanol over ethanol is that it has a higher energy density and lower volatility. It is also a true biofuel with potential of no or little impact to food supply unlike bioethanol, which is produced from food crop. Biobutanol is produced by using anaerobic Clostridia that can produce acetone, butanol and ethanol during Acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation. The process is anaerobic (carried out in the absence of oxygen), and is similar to how yeast ferments sugars to produce ethanol for wine, beer, or fuel. Three areas of improvements to existing ABE fermentation process that is needed includes, maximizing butanol yield on a particular feedstock, expanding feedstock utilization capability of host microorganism and optimizing separation and purification processes to improve economics on overall butanol production process. One key component of the ABE fermentation process is the bacteria that is used. In the past, one of the challenge faced in ABE process is that the microbe could be killed by the butanol produced if the concentration of the latter is too high. This technology relates to a process whereby a high concentration of butanol is produced by utilizing multiple feedstock such as monosugars, xylan and sugarcane bagasse hydrolysate (SBH) using a newly discovered microbe, which is more robust. In addition, the fermentive process produces butanol and acetone with negligible or no ethanol production detected. This meant that the separation and purification of butanol, thereby improving economics on scale.

Technology Features & Specifications

  • This process can produce high concentrations of butanol, with xylose as substrate
  • Xylan, a difficult substrate which cannot be fermented by yeast, can be used in this process
  • The process is highly robust and commercially applicable (conversion of ethanol plants)

Potential Applications

  • Production of biobutanol
  • Butanol as an additive for blending into gasoline (US EPA test shows that biobutanol reduces emissions) with no modification needed on the engine
  • Biobutanol has a higher energy content (105,000 BTU/gallon vs 84,000 BTU/gallon) thereby allow it to replace ethanol

Market Trends and Opportunities

Besides the possibility of biobutanol being adopted as a replacement of gasoline, biobutanol also has the added secondary appeal for a variety of commerical use in existing markets such as additives in the plastic and chemical industrial to produce paints, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, sealants and textiles. This market is estimated to be worth US$5Bn.   

Customer Benefits

  • Process active on varied feedstock such as xylan and sugarcane bagasse hydrolysate
  • Improved economics on butanol isolation due to simplification of purification process
  • High butanol yielding process with no ethanol production (13.5 g/L butanol when fed with 60 g/L glucose)
  • Being water resistant, it can be blended into gasoline
  • No methane pockets are formed (unlike ethanol), safer in situation of leakage or spillage

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