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Energy density: 29.2 MJ/L1
Air-fuel ratio: 11.21
Specific energy: 3.2MJ/KG air1
Heat of Vaporization: 0.43 MJ/kg1
Research Octane Number (RON): 961
Motor Octane Number (MON): 781
Pump Octane Number (PON):  ???
Feedstocks: Temperate: corn, sorghum, sugar beets
Tropical: sugar cane, sweet potatos, coconut, cassava, milo
Second-generation: cellulose, miscanthus, prairie grass, switchgrass

Butanol (C4H10O) or butyl alcohol is an alcohol that can be used as a solvent or fuel. Biobutanol refers to butanol that has been produced from biomass. Biobutanol is produced by a microbial fermentation, similar to ethanol and can be made from the same range of sugar, starch or cellulosic feedstocks. Biobutanol production is currently more expensive than ethanol so it has not been commercialized on a large scale. However, biobutanol has several advantages over ethanol and is currently the focus of substantial research and development.



  • Due to its low vapor pressure it can be easily blended with gasoline1.
  • It contains nearly as much energy as gasoline (ethanol only contains 66% as much)1.
  • Because it separates less easily in the presence of water it is better adapted to be used in the present distribution system than ethanol.1
  • Because it is less corrosive, it is also expected to be more suitable for use in existing oil pipelines.1
  • It can be used in existing vehicles in higher blends than ethanol.1

Biobutanol Production

  • Production of butanol by fermentation utilizes bacteria, typically of the genus Clostridium. In addition to butanol, these organisms also produce acetone and ethanol, so the process is often referred to as the "ABE fermentation". The process was first practiced on an industrial scale in Britain during World War I, in order to produce acetone which was vital for the production of military ammunition. Prior to the war, the acetone had been supplied from Germany. Although the advent of cheap petroleum and the development of the petrochemical industry later rendered fermentatio obsolete, the process continued in countries such as China and South Africa into the 1980's, with butanol being the primary product. In recent years, higher oil prices and environmental concerns have led to a renewed interest in fermentation processes. Many research groups are attempting to increase the butanol yield of the process to improve the economics.
Butanol can be produced from a variety of kinds of biomass







  • Advanced biofuels could meet almost half of UK green transport needs, 18 November 2011 by Greenwise: "A new generation of biofuels could meet almost half of Britain’s renewable transport needs, but without them the UK will miss its 2020 target, a new Government-commissioned report warns."
    • "The study, by the National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC), suggests second-generation biofuels, such as that derived from household rubbish, could meet up to 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport fuel target by 2020 – almost half of the 10 per cent target the UK must meet under the European Union Renewable Energy Directive."
    • "Vegetable oils currently provide most of the UK’s renewable fuel, but due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, the NNFCC says conventional biofuels are likely to produce only up to 6.6 per cent of the energy needed in road and rail transport by 2020."
    • "The NNFCC report predicts that for advanced biofuels to meet the 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport needs will require around one million tonnes of woody biomass, two million tonnes of wheat (butanol) and 4.4 million tonnes of household, commercial and industrial wastes."[1]
  • Race for better biofuels heats up, 7 March 2011 by "Scientists who engineer microbes to efficiently produce biofuels from plants and algae are busy reporting breakthroughs that could wean us from fossil fuels — offering a glimmer of hope to consumers eyeing gas prices skyrocket."
    • "In one breakthrough, a microbe has been genetically engineered to produce isobutanol, a gasoline-like fuel, directly from cellulose."
    • "The promise of butanol as a biofuel is spurring several researchers to genetically optimize microbes to produce it. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley reported March 2 a genetically engineered strain of E. coli that produces n-butanol at rate that is 10 times better than competing systems."
    • "In addition, James Liao, vice chair of chemical and biomolecluar engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his team published research on Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology describing a method for producing biofuels where "we use proteins instead of cellulose, sugars, or lipids," he told me."
    • "To do this, the team changed the metabolic pathways in E. coli so that they efficiently remove nitrogen from groups of amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — to produce alcohols, which are converted to biofuels."[2]
  • 110 Advanced Biofuels Projects Now in Development, 14 January 2011 by Renewable Energy "Today, the Biofuels Digest released version 1.7 of its free Advanced Biofuels Tracking Database, projecting advanced biofuels capacity for the 2011-2015 period."
    • "The new database, which is the quarterly update tracking new projects and changes in capacity announced since October, includes updates on 13 companies and their projects in Australia, Austria, Brazil, India, the Netherlands, Norway and the US."
    • "The database now tracks 110 advanced biofuels projects, and projects that advanced biofuels capacity will reach 718 million gallons in 2011, 1.522 billion by 2012, 2.685 billion by 2013, and 3.579 billion gallons by 2014."
    • "Renewable drop-in fuels (renewable gasoline, and renewable diesel, and biobutanol) have climbed to 59 percent of planned advanced biofuels capacity by 2015."[3]
  • BP Gives up on Jatropha for Biofuel, 17 July 2009 by the Wall Street Journal's blog Environmental Capital: "BP has indeed given up on jatropha, the shrub once touted as the great hope for biofuels, and walked away from its jatropha joint venture for less than $1 million."
    • "Now, BP will turn its alternative-fuel efforts toward ethanol in Brazil and the U.S., as well as biobutanol."[4]


1BP/Dupont Biobutanol Fact Sheet

Liquid biofuels edit
Oils & fats: Biodiesel | Pure plant oil (PPO)/Straight vegetable oil (SVO) | Renewable diesel
Oil feedstocks: Animal fat, oil palm, rapeseed, soybeans, etc.
Alcohols: Bio-ethanol | Biobutanol - Alcohol feedstocks: cellulosic, sugarcane, corn, sugarbeets, etc.
Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL): Pyrolysis oil | Methanol | Dimethyl ether (DME) - Biomass feedstocks

Other: ETBE | biokerosene


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