BP and DuPont companies have been working together since 2003 to develop advanced biofuels with properties that can help overcome the limitations of existing biofuels. That work has now progressed to the point where the two companies are able to bring the first jointly developed product to market 3/4 biobutanol.
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont, President Dean Oestreich explains biobutanol is produced using a fermentation process very similar to that of ethanol. "Butanol is simply another molecule that is different than ethanol, but it's also a fuel. And what we've done here is we've found a way, through use of our science, to make the process more efficient and economically viable," he says.
Like ethanol, a number of agricultural commodities can be used to produce biobutanol. "We can make biobutanol from corn grain, wheat, sugar beets, sugar cane, sorghum 3/4 and in the future we look toward being able to use cellulose-based crops as well, such as corn stalks or switchgrass."
Oestreich stresses that biobutanol is meant to complement and improve upon the current ethanol fuels industry rather than compete with it.
"We believe that in order to meet the global demand for renewable energy, the market will need to expand beyond the existing biofuels technology. And biobutanol will enhance the market for existing fuels, including ethanol. So, this is a win-win all the way through the system for biorenewables, including ethanol."
Like most biofuels, biobutanol will provide significant environmental benefits over petroleum-derived transportation fuels, reducing overall environmental emissions of greenhouse gases.
Initial introduction of biobutanol is targeted for 2007 in the United Kingdom as a gasoline bio-component. BP and DuPont are working with British Sugar, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods plc, to convert the country's first ethanol fermentation facility to produce biobutanol.