250718 Re-Commercialization of the Butanol Fermentation

Tuesday, October 30, 2012: 8:55 AM
Allegheny I (Westin )
Edward Green and Edward T. Davies, Green Biologics, Abingdon, United Kingdom

Biobutanol is an important commodity chemical with a global market worth approximately $5 billion. Biobutanol is also a superior next generation biofuel with a higher energy density and better performance than ethanol. It can also be made from more sustainable feedstocks than bio-diesel. Biobutanol has the potential to substitute for both ethanol and biodiesel in the biofuel market estimated to be worth $247 billion by 2020.

The butanol fermentation process was first developed in the UK in 1912 and commercial production quickly spread around the globe during the first and second world wars; first to produce acetone for ammunitions and then later to produce butanol for paint lacquers. The fermentation process fell out of favour in the US and Europe in the 1950’s when it could no longer compete with synthetic production from oil. Some fermentation remained in China, Russia and South Africa until the early 1980’s.

China leads the effort to re-commercialize the butanol fermentation process. Over $200 million has been invested to install over 0.3 million t pa of solvent capacity. We report on this activity and also on some of the key technical advances required to drive down production cost. In particular, we will focus on the utilisation of low cost and sustainable cellulosic feedstocks and on our re-commercialization activities.

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