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2 Iowa ethanol facilities weigh switch to butanol

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A joint venture of DuPont and BP announced Tuesday that two Iowa ethanol plants are considering converting their operations to production of biobutanol, a fuel with higher energy content than ethanol.

 

Lincolnway Energy of Nevada and Corn LP of Goldfield are reserving the option to switch production. They would join Highwater Ethanol of Minnesota as “early adapters” to butanol, with a target of production for the automobile consumer market by 2014.

 

“This is just the first step to find out what we need to know about butanol. We’re still a ways from even signing a letter of intent,” said Rick Brehm of Lincolnway Energy.

 

 

But Brehm said butanol “addresses some of the criticisms of ethanol,” which include its lower energy level compared with that of gasoline, the inability to move it in pipelines and its tendency to attract water.

 

Butanol is a flammable alcohol that can be made from either fossil fuels or renewable sources; either corn grain or the stalks, cobs or other parts of the plant can be used.

 

In the petroleum industry, butanol has been reserved primarily for the solvent and cosmetics markets, which tend to bring higher prices, rather than the motor transportation fuel market.

 

The conversion won’t be cheap. Paul Beckwith, president of Butamax, the BP-DuPont venture, said the price for new equipment would be about 20 to 30 percent of the original cost of a plant. That would be up to $30 million for a 50 million-gallon facility.....

.........

 

 

Butanol can be blended at 16 percent of the volume of gasoline, as opposed to the current 10 percent for ethanol (or 15 percent when regulatory bugs are worked out). That will enable the product to “create more room” within the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, Beckwith said.

 

 

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120502/BUSINESS/305020043/-1/ENT06/2-Iowa-ethanol-facilities-weigh-switch-butanol

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not quite sure what to make of this... are they going to be taking those 50mgy of motor fuel out of production, switching it to producing 50 mgy of solvents and cosmetic products...?  Didn't know if there was that large of a demand in that field...  or do they have a contract with oil terminals to blend this into the pipelines, or to ship it via the pipelines as a separate "refined product" to be blended at terminals further down stream on the line?

 

Just curious how this fuel would be used in the fuel industry?  Would it count under RFS just as ethanol would?  Would it count as an "oxygenate" and be allowed to replace ethanol for locations with clean air restrictions/mandates?  Curious if these plants would be able to switch back and forth between ethanol and butanol depending on the markets for either fuel.

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Last I knew- Butanol was not approved as a motor fuel at any inclusion rate since it will require the approvals at all levels (states, federal) and perhaps even UL dispenser testing. Butamax is one of the companies pushing agencies for this but money will not be spent on this chicken before the egg is laid. Because it does not have a fuel path- it will be chemical in the beginnning. Frankly I suspect with the effective lid on ethanol use in the states (many ethanol companies likely do not see the ability to finance, build, or financially support E85 networks) and the chemical route is likely to be far more profitable and sellable to bankers and investors. Just saying----- :-[  You will see more of this, succinic acid, and other chemical production rather than lower margin ethanol production.

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It may address some of the concerns of ethanol, but it brings new ones.  First is the corrosiveness.  It's somewhere between ethanol and methanol.  Second is the toxicity.  It is highly toxic.  Third is the smell.  I've heard it described as somewhere between gangrene and rotten eggs.  Not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination.

 

I don't want the stuff anywhere near my vehicles, or my hands for that matter.

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Yes- and it allows the oil companies to further lower gasoline feedstock quality just like they did that made ethanol look bad. They can put in more ethanes and butanes which are lower btu content and cheaper- again making gasoline a poorer product (while blaming theRFS/ alcohol families for this) and keeping gas cheaper. read this link;

http://energy.aol.com/2012/05/01/biofuels-producer-launching-ethanol-replacement/?goback=%2Egde_68087_member_111990349

And especially this comment in the article;

"The industrial alcohol provides increased efficiency to refiners when blending gasoline by allowing lighter components like pentane, ethane and butane to remain in the blend. When using biobutanol as a blend stock, refiners can produce a greater volume of gasoline from a barrel of crude oil"

 

The above is true due to the lower vapor pressures of butanol vs ethanol. Those products are a big part of why winter gas mileage is generally poorer than summer gas. Winter gas can have higher vapor pressures and more butane family in it.

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Its not a bad fuel, it just isnt a great one. It is produced with bacteria rather than yeast, is very toxic, more corrosive, has less resistance to pre ignition/ping/spark knock, and requires 10X the amount of water that ethanol requires for production. The water used needs treatment before it is released due to toxicity, and I am unsure if the water can be reused in the system like in the ethanol system.

 

You wont get any efficiency increases by raising compression, reducing waste heat, or making more power. It is however nearly a drop in for gasoline, has similar octane, toxicity, but I dont know about actual mileage on it.

 

Two reasons it is more popular than ethanol. 1 cars dont need much modification as far as fuel flow. 2 it cant be made by Joe Anybody in his backyard with stuff laying around. It requires much more specialized equipment and handling than does ethanol, and you need a way to treat the water.

 

By shutting out self production, they can keep people needing them, its simply job security where ethanol is personal freedom from them.

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Lincolnway Energy of Nevada and Corn LP of Goldfield are reserving the option to switch production.

I sold my shares in CornLP about a year ago. Both of these plants are in central Iowa and are coal fired. Like my cousin said the other day, when we invested in CornLP, who would have imagined that natural gas would be cheaper than coal after a few years.

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