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Alternative Fuels:


Butanol is largely compatible with and in some ways better than, gasoline. It's air/fuel mixture (Stoichometric A/F Ratio) is 11.2 (Standard Gasoline is 14.7, ethanol is 9.) which allows butanol to, just about, function in a standard gasoline engine. Its energy content is about 105,000 Btu per US gallon (Standard Gasoline has about 114,000 Btu per US gallon). In effect butanol has about 92% of the energy of gasoline. In actual driving conditions, as butanol has a strong power and torque content, drivers will use a lighter foot on the accelerator and hold a higher gear longer, fuel efficiency will approximately match that of gasoline. It can be mixed with gasoline in any ratio in unmodified engines. Additionally, as butanol has a very low vapour pressure point (RVP 0.3) and a high Flash Point (FP 37 degrees Celcius) it is a very safe fuel to use in high temperatures. Butanol can be produced at an estimated cost of 85 cents per gallon, and is a direct replacement for gasoline, which ethanol cannot be. Butanol also has a high cetane number (CN25, diesel averages CN45, ethanol CN9) which allows butanol to be blended with petrodiesel and with vegetable oils (where it also reduces the gel temperature point and the viscosity) to produce biodiesel, with some positive environmental effects. Consequently, butanol is a very versatile fuel and fuel extender in both gasoline and diesel engines. It can do things that ethanol will never be able to do. Its manufacture from biomass will enhance the progress towards a biofuel World.


Butanol is a higher alcohol with a 4 carbon atom structure and a general formula of C4H10O. It is used as an industrial solvent for chemical and textile processes, as a paint thinner, and as a component of hydraulic and brake fluids.

Image:Butanol molecule stick 200.jpg
Image:Butanol molecule 200.jpg


#Higher energy content than ethanol.

#Not as corrosive as ethanol.

#Uses an air/fuel ratio which is close to that of gasoline. Ethanol does not.

#Can be shipped through existing fuel pipelines where ethanol must be transported via rail, barge or truck.

#Can replace gasoline any percentage up to 100%. Ethanol can only be used up to 85%.

#Gives better mileage than ethanol.

#Safer to handle than ethanol.

#Will also assist in the conversion of vegetable oils into biodiesel.


Most commercial Butanol is produced petrochemically. Butanol can also be produced by fermentation of biomass with the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum, which produces a low yield. David Ramey of Ohio and his company, Environmental Energy, Inc. have developed a two stage fermentation process.

In this process, biomass feedstock is first fed to the bacteria Clostridium tyrobutyricum, where a large percentage is converted into butyric acid and hydrogen. In the second process, the butyric acid is fed to the bacteria Clostridium acetobutylicum, where it is converted into butanol. Ramey has claimed a 42% butanol yield from this process.

Environmental Energy Inc - has developed and patented a process which makes fermentation derived butanol more economically viable and competitive with current petrochemical processes and the production of ethanol. This economic improvement was developed under a federal DOE/STTR grant from the Department of Energy through the Small Business program. Using corn feedstock the production cost is estimated at $1.20 per gallon.

ChemLac Inc. (subsidiary of EEI) dramatically improves cost efficiencies to produce biobutanol by eliminating the corn feedstock accounting for 40% of the production cost of corn based alcohol fuels. By utilizing whey lactose, a by-product of cheese manufacturing as the process feedstock, ChemLac Inc. eliminates the raw input material cost, reducing the production cost to $0.85 per gallon.

Energy Content

in Btu/gallon

#. 64,000 Methanol

#. 84,000 Ethanol

# 105,000 Butanol

# 114,000 Gasoline

# 120,000 Biodiesel

# 130,000 Petrodiesel

Demonstration Run

Butanol Replaces Gasoline...gallon per gallon - No Gas, no engine modifications, no pollution. David Ramey drove an unmodified ’92 Buick in a 10,000 mile coast to coast Demonstration Run using Butanol, a fuel alcohol, instead of gasoline. He proved that there is an alcohol made from corn that replaces gasoline right now. The ’92 Buick Park Avenue got 24 miles per gallon with no modifications. EPA Test results in 10 states showed that Butanol reduced Hydrocarbons emissions by 95%, Carbon Monoxide to 0.0%, and Oxides of Nitrogen by 37%. Ramey says “With the rising cost of gas, the public wants something today that will stabilize the price of fuel and replace gasoline in their cars. Folks across the nation were absolutely amazed by how simple it was to change the fuel to Butanol!"

In the News

Image:UCLA cyanobacterium Synechoccus elongatus 95x95.jpg
Directory:Solar / Directory:Alternative Fuels > Directory:Butanol > Scientists Turn CO2 Directly Into Fuel Using The Sun - Researchers at UCLA have engineered a bacteria that can eat carbon dioxide and burp out butanol—a liquid fuel that can be substituted into our existing fuel infrastructure without modification. The reaction the team is harnessing is powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis. (Dec. 11, 2009)
Image:Butanol molecule 95.jpg

Cobalt Biofuels gets funding for biobutanol - Cobalt Biofuels has gotten $25 million in funding for its next phase of butanol commercialization. The company plans to create the fuel from non-food sources at a profit right from the start. (AutoblogGreen Oct. 21, 2008)

DuPont and BP Targeting 16% Butanol Blends - The DuPont and BP partnership to develop and commercialize biobutanol biofuels has demonstrated that a 16% biobutanol blend in gasoline doesn't compromise performance. The program has 60 patent applications and is designed to deliver by 2010 a superior biobutanol manufacturing process with economics equivalent to ethanol. (Green Car Congress Feb. 14, 2008)

Biofuel Centre Focusing on Biobutanol - The Biofuel Research Centre at Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland is focusing on developing biobutanol as a second-generation biofuel. Butanol is a fuel that potentially can be produced by fermentation from a diversity of organic material, including waste products from industrial processes. (Green Car Congress Jan. 31, 2008)

Researchers Investingating Production of Cellulosic Bio-Butanol - Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are working to produce bio-butanol from a variety of lignocellulosic materials. The process consists of physical and thermal pre-treatment, digestion by a mixed culture of microbes into butyrate, then fermentiation into bio-butanol. (Green Car Congress Jan. 15, 2007)

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Modifying E. Coli to Produce Advanced Biofuels - Researchers at UCLA have genetically modified Escherichia coli bacteria to efficiently produce higher-chain alcohols such as butanol from glucose. Without relying on fermentation, the UCLA approach offers the promise of much higher yields. The technology has been licensed to Gevo Inc., a company dedicated to producing biofuels. (Green Car Congress Jan. 2, 2008)

Bioengineering E. Coli to Produce Butanol - A team of University students won first prize in the Energy and the Environment category at the fourth annual iGEM competition at MIT. The team has been working on manipulating E. coli to produce butanol by introducing genes from Clostridium acetobutylicum and to increase E. coli’s tolerance to solvents such as butanol. (Green Car Congress Nov. 7, 2007)

Image:RITE 95x95.jpg

RITE Develops Cellulosic Biobutanol - The Research Institute of Innovative Technology has developed technology for producing cellulosic biobutanol for blending with diesel fuel. RITE’s process uses genetically modified microorganisms to ferment sugars resulting from the breakdown of cellulosic biomass. The biofuel is seen as key to cutting greenhouse gases emitted from diesel vehicles. (Green Car Congress Aug. 13, 2007)

Gevo to make biobutanol - Gevo intends to produce biobutanol from different types of biomass, including sugar cane, corn byproducts and grasses. Its bioprocessing technology uses fermentation to convert plants to alcohol-based fuels. The company intends to make butanol for automobiles, trucks and jets using the same basic technologies. (Biopact Jul. 19, 2007)

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Biobutanol from Syngas - W2 Energy, the developer of a GAT (Gliding Arc Tornado) plasma reactor for biomass gasification for power and fuels generation, is working to manufacture biobutanol from the GAT syngas. A GAT is a non-thermal plasma system that uses a reverse vortex flow (i.e., tornado) to preserve the main advantages of traditional gliding arc systems and overcome their main drawbacks. (Green Car Congress Jun. 26, 2007)

DuPont and BP building biobutanol facility in U.K. - DuPont and BP plan to construct a biobutanol demonstration facility, the first of its kind in the world. They plan to begin to deliver "market development" (i.e. limited) quantities of biobutanol to the U.K. by the end of the year, to carry out testing on the manufacturing infrastructure and further advance the vehicle testing on this next-generation biofuel. (Inside Greentech Jun. 27, 2007)

Cellulosic Biobutanol from Wheat Straw - Scientists are exploring the production of cellulosic biobutanol from wheat straw using Clostridium Beijerinckii. They achieved a rate of production of wheat straw hydrolysate to butanol of 214% over that from glucose. Clostridium beijerinckii P260 can utilize five and six carbon sugars present in cellulosic biomass and convert them to butanol. (Green Car Congress Jun. 25, 2007)

Butanol via Gasification - Energy Quest announced plans to produce butanol via gasification and catalytic conversion of coal and waste biomass, using its fluidized bed gasifier and PyStR (Pyrolysis Steam Reforming) process. Butanol is an alcohol with advantages over ethanol, that can be used in unmodified gas engines. (Green Car Congress Jun. 11, 2007)

BP and DuPont assert biobutanol performance - Testing results by DuPont and BP suggest that biobutanol has proven to perform similarly to unleaded gasoline on key parameters, including high energy density, controlled volatility, sufficient octane and low levels of impurities. Biobutanol fuels can be produced from domestic renewable resources in high volume at reasonable cost and can be used in existing vehicles and infrastructure. (Inside Greentech Apr. 19, 2007)

BP's Bet on Butanol - Forget ethanol: it's hard to transport and gives bad mileage per gallon. Another alcohol, butanol, is a much better renewable fuel, says the president of BP Biofuels. (MIT Technology Review Mar. 27, 2007)

EPA Awards SBIR Contract for Butanol from Biomass - The US EPA will award a contract to develop economically competitive biobutanol production to Integrated Genomics, a microbial genomics, biochemistry and gene expression company. In 2004, EPA awarded a contract to CPBR to develop a two-step fermentation process for production of butanol. That project runs through September 2007. (Green Car Congress Mar. 1, 2007)

Image:Butanol Jet Fuel 95x95.jpg

Butanol Jet Fuel From CO2 - Ocean Ethanol lab experiments confirm electrochemical production of butanol from CO2, water and electricity, generating butanol, water and oxygen. Estimated production cost is $.80 per gallon - based on current electrical rates, free water and free CO2. Butanol was identified by Virgin Airlines as the jet fuel of the future. (Ocean Ethanol Feb. 21, 2007) (Thanks [ Greg Giese])

DuPont outlines commercialisation strategy for biobutanol - DuPont has clarified its commercialisation strategies for biobutanol at an alternative energy conference. Fleet testing of biobutanol has begun in the United States and the European Union. Biobutanol market testing is targeted for later this year in the United Kingdom. Additional global capacity will be introduced as the technology advances and market conditions dictate. (Biopact Feb. 22, 2007)

Biofuels Entrepreneur Seeking £80M for Biobutanol Plant - The former CEO of Biofuels Corp. is trying to raise £80 million (US$156 million) to build a biobutanol plant in the south of Ireland, which would use local sugar beets as the feedstock. Compared to ethanol, biobutanol — C4H10O, a four-carbon alcohol — is more suitable for use in gasoline engines. (Green Car Congress Feb. 11, 2007 )

Green Biologics to boost biobutanol fuel development - Green Biologics has received funding to develop its Butafuel™ cellulosic biobutanol product, identified as a superior 'next generation' biofuel for transport, which will slash the cost of production by up to a third. GBL has isolated a cocktail of thermophiles for rapid enzymatic hydrolysis and release of fermentable sugars from biomass. (Biopact January 22, 2007)

BP and DuPont Announce Partnership to Develop Advanced Biofuels - The first product to market will be biobutanol, which will be introduced in the United Kingdom as a gasoline bio-component. Initial introduction is targeted in the UK in 2007 where 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. Production is planned to utilize a range of feedstocks such as sugar cane or beet, corn, wheat, or cassava. (BP Global Press June 20, 2006)

As Gas Prices Climb, Butanol Research Reaches Exciting Stage - Hans Blaschek, a U of I professor of food microbiology, has been using his patented, genetically modified organism Clostridium beijerinckii to convert corn into butanol, a promising alternative to petroleum-based fuels, since the 1990s. "But now we have a map of the genome of this 'bug' that we use to cause fermentation of corn co-products, creating butanol in the process," he said. (Aces News April 18, 2006)

Web Sites

Butanol as a biofuel - Butanol solves the safety problems associated with the infrastructure of the hydrogen supply. Reformed butanol has four more hydrogen atoms than ethanol, resulting in a higher energy output and is used as a fuel cell fuel.

How Butanol Works - Butanol explained in a simply and easy to understand format.

Other Biofuels - Butanol is another amazing alternative fuel, because it can be made from things like rice straw and old newspapers. It has as much energy as gasoline (BTU'S/gal), it burns with the same air/fuel ratio, and it will even mix with gasoline which means that you don't have to drain your tank first in order to use it. You don't even have to re-tune or adjust your engine. The best part is that it can even be made from lawn clippings and leaves.

Information Bridge - DOE Scientific and Technical Information. It is possible to produce butanol from corn for less than $1 per gallon. Current butanol production is from petroleum costing $1.50 per gallon and wholesales for $3.80. Butanol is safer to handle than gasoline or ethanol. When substituted for gasoline it gives better mileage and produces less pollution.

Wisconsin Technology Network - Butanol production can be enhanced via the utilization of a micro-organism known as C. beijerinckii. The genome of this organism was sequenced by the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute. Butanol has storage advantages and can be used not only in internal combustion engines but also in diesel engines.

Green Car Congress: Boosting Biomass to Butanol - Anaerobic butanol fermentation process delivers 42% more energy than ethanol.

Bio-Butanol - Article at R-Sqared. 110,000 Btu’s per gallon for butanol vs. 84,000 for ethanol and 115,000 for gasoline. Butanol is six times less "evaporative" than ethanol and 13.5 times less evaporative than gasoline. Butanol can be shipped through existing fuel pipelines where ethanol must be transported via rail, barge or truck. Butanol can be used as a replacement for gasoline gallon for gallon e.g. 100%, or any other percentage.

EnerGenetics International has sponsored the development of a new process that uses a patented continuous immobilized bioreactor that produces between 4.5-5 g/l/h at yields of 40—50% or almost 400-500% greater yields than that of the traditional butanol process (the A/B/E-Acetone, Butanol, Ethanol process). This means that we can produce almost twice the amount of n-butanol that is usually produced from a bushel of corn (1.3 to 2.5 gallons per bushel) which is equivalent to the yield of ethanol.

biobutanol fact sheet - Biobutanol, an advanced biofuel, offers a number of advantages and can help accelerate biofuel adoption in countries around the world. It provides greater options for sustainable renewable transportation fuels, reduces dependence on imported oil, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and expands markets for agricultural products worldwide. - Information on specific restriction enzymes (incubation temperature, heat inactivation, etc.) or restriction enzyme sources (biohazard level, human health implications, etc.) (Under construction) – Butanol has four isomers, but only three are naturally fermented in ABE fermentation. Petroleum Butanol is different and contains the unnatural Tert Butanol which does not bio-degrade. A blend of mostly bioButanol, with some added bioPentanol is a superior fuel to petroleum gasoline.

SunOpta - Cellulosic Butanol Alcohol for Road Fuel - In France, butanol is produced from wheat straw, corn stover and wood chips for road fuel.

New Virgin company to focus on green fuel - Sir Richard Branson’s new company Virgin Fuels is to investigate a derivative of cellulosic butanol to find a more environmentally friendly fuel for aviation. Made from wood, straw and other biomass sources, Virgin Fuels is to study cellulosic butanol initially for road transport, but is looking to a derivative for aviation.

Biobutanol - The Other White Meat - David Ramey drove his unmodified 1992 Buick across America fueled by 100% butanol. Like pork is to chicken, butanol is to ethanol. It can be blended with gasoline in larger concentrations than ethanol, yields 104,800 BTU/gallon vs. 84,250 BTU/gallon for ethanol, burns cleaner than E85, is less corrosive and evaporates slower than ethanol and can be transported through existing pipelines. (AutoblogGreen December 30, 2006)


New England BioLabs - Clostridium acetobutylicum Cac8I

DSMZ - Bacteria: Clostridium

Directories - Blog posts tagged butanol


User User talk:John Q. Public - is responsible for much of the content on this page. Leave a comment on his 'talk' page. He'll see it next time he logs in.


See Talk:Directory:Butanol

See also

ALT FUELS (alphabetical sequence)

Directory:Alternative Fuels

Directory:Air Cars

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Directory:Algae for Oil


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Directory:Biodiesel from Algae Oil

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OS:DIY Rocket Stove


Directory:Boron-Powered Vehicles

Directory:Hydrogen from Water using Boron



Directory:Cellulosic Ethanol

OS:Solar Ethanol

Directory:Ethanol Woes


Directory:Hydrogen from Water

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Directory:Sorganol Biofuel

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Directory:Waste to Energy

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