Researchers in Asia have developed the first carbon-negative biobutanol production technology using cellulose biomass feedstock. ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) in Taiwan introduced ButyFi, the first biochemical technology for a biobutanol transportation-fuel production with a negative carbon footprint using cellulosic biomass instead of corn.
The total energy content in the lignin-rich biomass has the surplus to cover the energy for production and the entire life cycle of the fuel (well-to-wheel). Therefore, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission of ButyFix bio-butanol is slightly negative. ButyFix is available for licensing to biofuel- and chemical-processing organizations. ITRI receives a 2013 R&D 100 Award in November for this breakthrough.
ButyFix technology produces bio-butanol with GHG emission reduction of over 100 percent, much higher than corn ethanol with a GHG reduction of approximately 23 percent. ButyFix achieves a butyrate yield of 0.70 g/g-sugar, which is 94 percent of carbon conversion. This carbon yield is 2.7 times of traditional ABE process.
Replacing corn ethanol with ButyFix butanol in the United States, based on today’s ethanol consumption of 13 billion gallons, would further reduce CO2 emissions by 90 million tons/year. ButyFix butanol is the only biofuel able to achieve a transportation-fuel price of US$2.00/gallon — well below current gasoline and bio-ethanol prices — and without government subsidies.
ButyFix’s proponents say the technology can be retrofitted to current ethanol plants, performs better than ethanol as a drop-in fuel and is more compatible with current gasoline engines (without modification) and existing gasoline infrastructure. In addition, refiners can more quickly meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel standards.