Associated British Foods (ABF), BP and DuPont will invest around $400 million for the construction of a major bioethanol plant alongside a demonstration plant for biobutanol. Although initial production of the primary plant will be bioethanol, the partners will explore converting it to biobutanol production once the required technology is available.
The bioethanol plant, in which BP and ABF subsidiary British Sugar would each hold 45% with DuPont owning the remaining 10%, will be built on BP’s existing chemicals site at Saltend, Hull, UK. Due to be commissioned in late 2009, it will have an annual production capacity of some 420 million liters (111 million gallons US) from wheat feedstock.
The biobutanol demonstration plant will produce around 20,000 liters (5,300 gallons US) per year from a variety of feedstocks.
Discussions are currently underway to explore strategic partnerships with grain trading business Frontier Agriculture for the supply of locally grown wheat feedstocks and with co-product marketing company AB Agri in relation to DDGS, a byproduct of bioethanol manufacture.
Aker Kvaerner will lead the front end engineering and design (FEED) work with its joint venture partner Praj providing the technology expertise. Although the plant will be built from scratch, it will have access to the existing infrastructure at the BP site for essential supporting services.
Over the last year, we have accelerated the commercial development of biobutanol. The demonstration facility, which will begin operation in early 2009, will develop the processing parameters and further advance the commercial deployment of our new technology. We are concurrently investing in the Hull bioethanol facility with the intention to increase that investment once biobutanol process technology development is completed and conversion feasibility is validated.—John Ranieri, head of DuPont Biofuels
To begin market development of biobutanol, BP and DuPont are also establishing initial introduction plans for biobutanol in the UK. The companies will import small quantities of biobutanol, sourced from an existing first-generation manufacturing facility in China. The first product is expected to arrive by the end of the year and will be used to carry out infrastructure and advanced vehicle testing.
BP and DuPont announced the creation of a partnership to develop, produce and market a next generation of biofuels in June 2006, with biobutanol as the first product. (Earlier post.)
Biobutanol is an advanced biofuel that performs more like unleaded gasoline than traditional biofuels. Test data presented earlier this year indicate that biobutanol fuel blends at a nominal 10 vol% level perform very similarly to unleaded gasoline fuel. Additionally, the energy density of biobutanol is closer to unleaded gasoline—around 26-27 MJ/liter, compared to 21-22 MJ/l for bioethanol and 32-33 MJ/l for gasoline. (Earlier post.)
Biobutanol does not increase vapor pressure when added to gasoline, avoiding the need for special gasoline base blends needed to prevent an increase in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Biobutanol does not phase-separate in the presence of water, unlike ethanol. With a lower oxygen content than ethanol, higher volumetric concentrations of biobutanol could be blended into gasoline while still adhering to oxygen limits. Fuel testing also has proven that biobutanol does not phase separate in the presence of water, and has no negative impact on elastomer swelling.
DuPont and BP are currently in the process of carrying out detailed calculations of biobutanol’s GHG well to wheel/lifecycle analysis emissions performance.