Optinol Inc. announced this week that it can produce bio-butanol for about the same cost as ethanol. The benefit is that bio-butanol has higher energy content per volume and can be used in existing pipelines, says Jack Oswald, Optinol’s interim CEO.
Optinol has been testing its fermentation/extraction process and its patented non-GMO strain of clostridium to estimate the costs for commercial scale production of bio-butanol. Depending on the price of the feedstock (sugar source), bio-butanol could be produced for $3.00 per gallon or as low as $1.00 per gallon, Oswald says.
Optinol plans to broadly license its process and clostridium strain. One of the benefits of this particular strain is that because it “eats” contaminants within the yeast, less expensive feedstocks (molasses, for example) may be used, Oswald adds. Optinol has tested a variety of feedstocks, including corn starch, sweet sorghum juice, cellulosic sugars, and molasses from sugar cane and sugar beets, among others
Another benefit of bio-butanol is that it can be blended into gasoline in conventional pipelines without corrosion or other water-related issues rather than having to be transported via rail to blending facilities, Oswald says. He adds that there are no vapor pressure issues with bio-butanol and that it has better storage capability than ethanol.
Optinol has tailored its bio-butanol process to the clostridium organism rather than trying to genetically modify an organism to existing production processes, Oswald says. The process involves continuous flow through fermentation of the organism in inexpensive immobilized cell columns. The company claims to have operated several such columns continuously for more than two years.
“Low cost fermentation, low cost continuous extraction and low energy distillation processes provide the basis for a low cost, commercially robust production platform,” reports Ravi Randhava, chief technology officer, Optinol.
Louisiana State University has conducted most of the lab and pilot project research involved with this bio-butanol. Final feasibility studies are targeting optimization of the extraction medium, Optinol reports.