The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has identified biobutanol as a suitable and safe alternative biofuel to ethanol. The research and subsequent resolution to move forward formally with butanol as an industry-wide biofuel alternative comes as the industry focuses on addressing the congressionally-mandated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into the gasoline supply by 2022.
Methods to increase renewable fuels in the gasoline supply have primarily focused on ethanol—specifically fuel with a higher blend of ethanol such as E15 (fuel with 15% ethanol). Multiple reports show that ethanol blends greater than 10% can cause significant damage to marine engines. As a result, the marine industry has explored biobutanol fuel blends with promising results.
The NMMA is the leading association representing the recreational boating industry in North America. Its member companies produce more than 80% of the boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout the US and Canada.
Over the last five years, the NMMA has worked together with bio isobutanol provider Gevo, the US Department of Energy (DOE), Argonne National Laboratory, the US Coast Guard and others on the testing of isobutanol in a variety of marine engines. During this time, the NMMA has gathered a great amount of data supporting the viability of isobutanol as the preferred renewable fuel blendstock for gasoline-powered marine engines.
The studies showed that isobutanol fuel blends are a preferable power source for the marina markets. Isobutanol solves concerns that many boaters have with ethanol-blended fuels, which can damage internal engine parts. In the studies several advantages of isobutanol-blended fuel were apparent, including:
- Provides higher energy content;
- Prevents moisture absorption & phase separation; and
- Reduces engine corrosion.
Based on years of collaborative testing across the industry, biobutanol fuel blends, such as the ones provided by Gevo during our test program, are a safe and viable alternative to ethanol for use in recreational marine engines and boats up to 16.1 percent by volume.—Jeff Wasil, Engineering Manager, Emissions Testing, Certification and Regulatory Development at BRP US Inc. (Bombardier Recreational Products)
Although large scale consumer availability of biobutanol fuel blends is not expected for another couple of years, the boating industry’s supportive position is poised to encourage its market expansion by providing marine fuel distributors, retailers and consumers with the confidence that this is not only a suitable, but a more compatible fuel for boats.
We believe that the marine industry will be an important market for Gevo's isobutanol. The technical properties of isobutanol shine in this application. We appreciate the efforts and the collaboration between Gevo and the NMMA throughout the testing program. We are pleased to have provided, from our plant in Luverne, the isobutanol needed to make the 16% isobutanol blended fuels that the studies required, for both on-water tests and in the laboratory. We are delighted with the results of the testing and to have the endorsement of the NMMA. Isobutanol has proven to be an effective, highly compatible biofuel for the recreational boating industry.—Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo CEO