Company Retrofitting Ethanol Plants for Biobutanol

Cindy Zimmerman

A Colorado-based company is working to develop a fleet of biorefineries based on retrofitting existing ethanol plants to produce biobutanol.

gevoLast week, Gevo, Inc. announced the start up of the first biobutanol demonstration plant designed from retrofitting an existing demonstration scale ethanol plant in St. Joseph, Missouri. The company is using the plant to demonstrate the viability of its technology for retrofitting existing ethanol plants to make biobutanol, which can be blended directly into gasoline and be used to make renewable hydrocarbons (“green gasoline”), diesel and jet fuel, chemical intermediates and biobased plastics.

This is the first time that an existing ethanol operation has been successfully retrofitted to produce biobutanol instead of ethanol. ICM’s pilot plant at St. Joseph has been designed and constructed as a reduced scale replica of a dry-milled ethanol production process. Additionally, Gevo’s biobutanol has higher energy content than ethanol and a lower Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) – which means lower volatility and evaporative emissions. Importantly, standard automobile and small engines can run on biobutanol blended into gasoline at any ratio.

The retrofit of the pilot plant was completed in less than three months and the company says it also represents the first step along the route to produce cellulosic biobutanol which will be possible once biomass conversion technology becomes commercially available.

biobutanol, biofuels, Cellulosic, Ethanol