Isobutanol - the next gen biofuel

Messages
133
Location
Milwaukee, WI.
I live up here in WI and the company I work for sells some machinery & equipment to BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products / Can-Am, Rotax, Evinrude, Sea-Doo, Ski-Doo) at their research facility in Sturtevant, WI. They just received an award and were named the 2014 winner of the WI Business Friend of the Environment. Being a big fan of E-85, I was curious on their thoughts on ethanol, and had a LONG discussion with one of their product managers. They are going all in on isobutanol and view ethanol as a first generation biofuel to be used primarily as an additive only. He described to me that isobutanol has a longer hydrocarbon chain and is closer to gasoline than ethanol. He added that it has 98% of the energy density of gasoline, it does not readily absorb water and can be mixed at any proportion with gasoline. It can be shipped in the existing gasoline infrastructure and it can be produced from plant matter not connected to food supplies. And, most importantly to BRP, it has HC numbers that are very low for emissions reasons. BRP has spent millions (and I mean Millions) to reduce emissions on their 2 cycle (E-Tec) engines and have achieved emissions lower than a 4 cycle engine in some applications. They consider ethanol a "past" technology and consider isobutanol the "current" generation alternative fuel are going all in toward that end. These guys are very knowledgeable on fuels/emissions and have the resorces and political will to make this happen. They are not operating on the fringe. I cannot tell you how adamant they are that isobutanol is the fuel of the future. Very interesting conversations.
 
Messages
8,051
Location
Michigan
I remember that isobutanol was mentioned as alternative to ethanol when the Renewable Fuels Standard was in the public debate 10 or so years ago. It didn't get any traction then. If somebody wants to make a go of it now, OK with me. Just as long as they don't dip their hands into taxpayers' pockets with endless subsidies.
 
Messages
8,051
Location
Michigan
Heat of combustion for isobutanol = 36 MJ/kg. Heat of combustion for ethanol = 27 MJ/kg. Heat of combustion for gasoline = 43 MJ/kg. It has 84% of the heat content of gasoline on a mass basis, but since it is more dense, its heat content on a volume basis is 91% of gasoline. I wonder where that 98% number came from?
 
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Messages
1,048
Location
SE Wisconsin
If the manufacturers of isobutanol can get the cost down under $2/gal, then I'd be all for it. From a technical standpoint it would be superior to ethanol from a gasoline replacement perspective (higher energy content, lower water solubility, less harmful to fuel systems, etc). Likely any inexpensive source of isobutanol is going to be a mixture of butanol isomers, though - not an issue from a motor fuel standpoint as long as they can keep the n-butanol concentration low enough to prevent adverse effect on octane rating, and t-butanol/sec-butanol concentrations low enough to prevent excessive hygroscopy.
 
Messages
7,492
Location
North America
Originally Posted By: danthaman1980
If the manufacturers of isobutanol can get the cost down under $2/gal, ...
crackmeup crackmeup Not making fun of you, but these ARE the oil companies we are talking about.....
 
Messages
3,561
Location
Central Iowa
Isobutanol is something I have been looking forward to for some time. There are still some characteristics of ethanol that I like over butanol, but I would have no problem giving them up for the various benefits that butanol brings to the table. Especially in regards to transportation issues of ethanol, along with several other positives. I realize that many are on the corn lobby kick against ethanol, but corn will be a major player in isobutanol production. Many ethanol interests are moving toward having existing corn ethanol plants move on to butanol. Gevo is already in development discussions with several ethanol producers regarding this. Nothing will change. Corn will still be used as a primary feed stock for production. I am not sure why so many get their panties in a wad over #2 yellow field corn. It isn't like we can grow sugarcane in the upper midwest. Or anywhere in the continental U.S. at anywhere near the level that would be needed to meet and beat current and future ethanol/butanol demands. And dent corn being used for ethanol/butanol production does not and will not put a dent in the human food supply, pardon the pun. If it did, then corn prices would not be at the ridiculously low prices it is now in relation to everything else.
 
Messages
750
Location
MN
Biggest issue I have with corn is that it's not an efficient crop to grow, lots of energy, water, nutrients go to growing that large stalk to produce one or two ears each. The stalk is pretty much waste material and has little commercial value. Cellulose conversion would be much better in the long run but the biology/chemistry of doing it cheaply and efficiently are still a ways out.
 
Messages
3,561
Location
Central Iowa
Not as much energy and water than one thinks to grow corn. No till and Low till farming has replaced many of the old farming techniques. What used to be 4-5 passes over farm ground has been reduced to 2-3 passes. Roughly 15% of tillable farm land is irrigated, most of that produce production for the dinner table, and hardly any of the corn crop land is irrigated on a percentage basis, so only what falls from the sky is used to grow it. And ethanol plants themselves have developed recycling techniques and zero discharge policies for their water usage. A lot of corn ethanol plants have gotten water use down to just over 2 gallons per gallon of ethanol, or darn close to the 2 gallons of water for 1 gallon of gasoline rates. Take a look at more recent studies done. A lot of information being bandied about is several years old.
 
Messages
3,061
Location
usa
The solution, believe it or not, is not Ethanol, nor Butanol. I did however figure it all out, so bear with me. The main argument against corn-based fuel is, at least according to Businessweek, that it takes the food off the plates of poor people. Poor people whose diurnally main source of nutrition happens to be corn? TexMexicans! So, let's (literally) take a little trip to the City of San Antonio, TX: Lots of Mexicans, lots of taco, tortilla, burrito aficionados and lots of lard [censored], too. Let them have their corn, right? But here's the kicker: Lots of Mexicans happen to be nurses. It's not like you can do too much damage to an overly obese body aesthetically, so it won't take too much to get them trained to perform liposuction. If you perform liposuction at a bargain in San Antonio, I'm pretty sure that corn will vanish from your table rather quickly (or any meat products, for that matter), if the argument of corn being the only affordable food is even valid, as so are chicken wings and watermelons. Now fat people are usually pretty stupid as they lack the understanding that you need to eat healthy (a little tip: Less corn, more proteins) and exercise if you want to keep a healthy weight, so liposuction will likely be considered the greatest thing ever and the first diet where you factually can stuff your face all day long and still loose weight, and so you can harvest approx. 100 lbs. worth of lard every 6-12 months per belly, which happens to be rather nice. On the downside people lack the social stigma of being fat and are not immediately recognizable as being stupid, but coincidentally this has recently replaced with being tattoo'd all over their bodies. This also happens to be big with Mexican professionals, so there you have even more people who get the opportunity to put some real food on their dinner tables. Why am I even blathering about [censored] liposuction, you may ask? Rightly so! You may or may not have heard about G-Oil, the environmentally friendly PAO engine oil made from beef fat. Beef tallow, stupid people fat: Kind of the same thing. Instead of engine oil however, I propose drying the fat, mixing it with a little methanol and sodium hydroxide and leaving it in the nice San Antonio sun for a couple of hours and boom: You have Biodiesel that powers a car. TL;DR: Feeding corn to people who digest fructose to fat, sucking it off and turning it into biodiesel while solving 1) the energy thing, 2) the alleged poor nutrition of Mexicans and 3) the obesity problem. It doesn't get better than that. Unless you're not into complete [censored].
 
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Messages
3,561
Location
Central Iowa
Not sure how using corn for ethanol/butanol production takes food away from anyone. I sure haven't seen any shortages at the grocery store. Jiffy corn muffin mix is almost always on sale at some store and at a pretty low price to boot. Just being facetious. But in reality, less than 20% of the total U.S. corn crop is ever targeted for human consumption, worldwide. Of the remaining 80%, around half of that is targeted for ethanol/butanol production. The rest goes straight to livestock. Of the corn that goes toward ethanol, a large portion of that goes right back into feed for livestock and poultry. And, corn prices are lower now than when Pres Bill Clinton was in office, in both actual dollar amount and adjusted for inflation. If there was a killer demand for corn for human consumption, we would see much higher market corn prices. Irregardless of what some believe, corn, like any other commodity, will follow the highest market price. Simple economics. Food shortages that may exist have almost all of their problem with government induced food supply restrictions and not supply itself. There is more than enough corn to meet any human food demands worldwide and still meet the livestock needs and meet the U.S. renewable fuel standards of a maximum 13-14 billion gallons of ethanol from corn per year.
 
Messages
3,561
Location
Central Iowa
Originally Posted By: Shannow
I think that the cloud point of human fat derived biodiesel if probably too high to make it commercially viable.
But it sure is with animal fats used for biodiesel production. Lots of bio made from animal fats have been part of the fuel scene in the U.S. for quite some time. I go thru around 21,000 gallons of diesel a year, most of it B10 or more, and quite a bit of that bio is a blend of plant and animal fat sources.
 
Messages
2,745
Location
San Antonio, TX
I think tommygunn is really off base focusing on San Antonio and a single ethnic group. Under current laws material removed from humans by liposuction is medical waste and must be handled and disposed of as such. I don't know the details but anyone with enough internet savvy to log into this site has a means at their disposal to investigate that. This is just one step shy of what the Chinese were doing in the 90's, offering organ transplants and doing the donor matching so the execution of the donor could be scheduled to coincide with your surgery. When I was going to be assigned to a renewable diesel project, the feedstock was going to be animal fats - but it required 9at that time anyway) some hydroprocessing to convert it to diesel, unlike plant-derived biodiesel. There were options to be explored regarding requiring its own hydroprocessing reactor(s) or whether it could be co-processed with conventional hydrocarbons. The project was shelved before I retired, and I have no idea what companies are doing what with such material today. Again, if someone has enough internet savvy to log in here, they can find at least some info in the public domain regarding renewable diesel production. http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/emerging_green.html http://www.uop.com/processing-solutions/biofuels/green-diesel/#natural-oils-conversion http://www.uop.com/?document=uop-opportu...&download=1
 
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Messages
9,783
Location
Saskatoon canada
Originally Posted By: tommygunn
The solution, believe it or not, is not Ethanol, nor Butanol. I did however figure it all out, so bear with me. The main argument against corn-based fuel is, at least according to Businessweek, that it takes the food off the plates of poor people. Poor people whose diurnally main source of nutrition happens to be corn? TexMexicans! So, let's (literally) take a little trip to the City of San Antonio, TX: Lots of Mexicans, lots of taco, tortilla, burrito aficionados and lots of lard [censored], too. Let them have their corn, right? But here's the kicker: Lots of Mexicans happen to be nurses. It's not like you can do too much damage to an overly obese body aesthetically, so it won't take too much to get them trained to perform liposuction. If you perform liposuction at a bargain in San Antonio, I'm pretty sure that corn will vanish from your table rather quickly (or any meat products, for that matter), if the argument of corn being the only affordable food is even valid, as so are chicken wings and watermelons. Now fat people are usually pretty stupid as they lack the understanding that you need to eat healthy (a little tip: Less corn, more proteins) and exercise if you want to keep a healthy weight, so liposuction will likely be considered the greatest thing ever and the first diet where you factually can stuff your face all day long and still loose weight, and so you can harvest approx. 100 lbs. worth of lard every 6-12 months per belly, which happens to be rather nice. On the downside people lack the social stigma of being fat and are not immediately recognizable as being stupid, but coincidentally this has recently replaced with being tattoo'd all over their bodies. This also happens to be big with Mexican professionals, so there you have even more people who get the opportunity to put some real food on their dinner tables. Why am I even blathering about [censored] liposuction, you may ask? Rightly so! You may or may not have heard about G-Oil, the environmentally friendly PAO engine oil made from beef fat. Beef tallow, stupid people fat: Kind of the same thing. Instead of engine oil however, I propose drying the fat, mixing it with a little methanol and sodium hydroxide and leaving it in the nice San Antonio sun for a couple of hours and boom: You have Biodiesel that powers a car. TL;DR: Feeding corn to people who digest fructose to fat, sucking it off and turning it into biodiesel while solving 1) the energy thing, 2) the alleged poor nutrition of Mexicans and 3) the obesity problem. It doesn't get better than that. Unless you're not into complete [censored].
Awesome. Fat is something us North Americans have lots of. If I can run my car off that fat,and it's cheaper than gasoline then I'm in. Gives whole new meaning to "trimming the fat"
 
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