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Saudi Aramco R&D proposes SuperButol as new low-cost high-octane blend component

27 January 2017

A team from Saudi Aramco Research and Development Center has developed a novel low-cost, high-octane gasoline blend component it calls SuperButol. SuperButol is made from low-value mixed butenes using a new process the team has named Butenes to Butanol (BTB); it has slightly lower blending RON compared to MTBE but has lower blending vapor pressure and higher energy content compared to ethanol.

It also has an insignificant effect on key gasoline specifications, including potential and actual gum; oxidation stability; intake valve deposits; port fuel injector fouling; haze formation; and water extractability performance. The team suggests that SuperButol is thus a viable and affordable gasoline component, which can help to meet future demands for high-octane gasoline. In addition, the process helps to optimize refinery operations by valorizing low-value products. The team describes SuperButol in a paper in the journal Fuel.

Knock, an abnormal combustion phenomenon, is the primary constraint on the efficiency of spark ignition (SI) engines. As engine designers strive for higher efficiency SI engines, pressure will build up to increase the anti-knock or octane quality of gasolines in the future. This poses challenges for refineries and high-octane blending components will enable the fuel manufacturers to provide suitable fuels for future engines. Oxygenates such as ethanol and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), are known for their resistance to knock and are used as gasoline blending components to increase octane number In addition, ethanol can be made from bio sources and is considered as a renewable fuel component. It is mandated for use in gasoline in many countries. MTBE is made from methanol and isobutylene-methanol itself can be produced from natural gas or coal while isobutylene is derived either from natural gas or from by-products of fluid catalytic and steam crackers.

… In this paper, we introduce a new high octane gasoline blending component, SuperButol, which is mainly a mixture of different isomers of butanol with small amounts of di-isobutylenes (DIB) and is made from mixed butenes which have low economic value in the refinery and low octane rating for the engine. This blending component could be used on its own or with other octane boosters such as MTBE. In fact, recent studies have demonstrated the potential of using alternative octane boosters, such as SuperButol in less processed fuels in order to reach the same anti-knock properties as a commercial high-octane fuel.

—Kalamaras et al.

Butenes are olefinic hydrocarbon gases; currently, refineries use mixed butenes resulting from cracking operations as a feedstock to produce intermediates for chemicals. Some of these techniques for processing mixed butenes are costly, and corrosive, the team notes.

By contrast, the SuperButanol production process—“Butenes to Butanols” (BTB)—is simple and safe, and was successfully demonstrated in a large capacity pilot plant.

Hydration and dimerization reactions occur in a fixed bed reactor at 10–70 bar and 100–170 ˚C using a sulfonated ion exchange resin catalyst with a water-to-hydrocarbon ratio in the range of 1–10 vol%. Overall single pass conversion is 14 vol%. Unreacted butenes are recycled to the reactor until all the butenes are converted to the isomers of butanols and iso-octane.

Process flow diagram for Butenes to Butanols (BTB) pilot plant. Product stream from the reactor is sent to the high pressure and low pressure separators to remove the majority of unreacted water to be recycled after azeotropic distillation. The organic phase from the separator vessels is sent to the debutenizer column to separate SuperButol product from unreacted butenes that would be recycled to ensure complete butenes conversion. Click to enlarge.

The SuperButol product as obtained mainly comprises 2-Butanol (63.9%) and tert-Butanol (29.0%). The Saudi Aramco team assessed the blend properties of SuperButol by blending it into gasoline at different concentrations.

This product has very good anti-knock qualities and can be used to increase both RON and sensitivity of a gasoline. It has higher volumetric energy content and leads to lower vapor pressure in blends compared to those containing either ethanol or MTBE, which increases blending flexibility. SuperButol can also increase the refinery revenues by enabling the blending of low value pentanes into the gasoline pool at an acceptable vapor pressure. Its oxidation stability, gum and deposit formation tendencies are similar to those of MTBE. In terms of haze formation and water extractability performance, it is better than ethanol and butanol and should pose no handling problems provided suitable precautions are taken. As a result, SuperButol could provide another practical and affordable option to produce higher octane gasolines in the future.

—Kalamaras et al.


  • Christos Kalamaras, Kareemuddin Shaik, Gautam Kalghatgi, Hassan Babiker, Abdulkarim Alsamah, David McLeary, Wei Xu (2017) “SuperButol – A novel high-octane gasoline blending component,” Fuel, Volume 195, Pages 165-173 doi: 10.1016/j.fuel.2017.01.062

January 27, 2017 in Engines, Fuel Efficiency, Fuels, High Octane Fuels | Permalink | Comments (6)


Come on, lower the price of fuels and foods at the pump by removing this harmful ethanol. Probably the lobbies of corn ethanol and these climate change fools will stop this additive from entering the market.

valorizing low-value products
We have some left over stuff from refining we want to sell you.

@SJC LOL I had the same thought. But then I remembered that originally there was this critical production of kerosene with this left over "gasoline" they had no good use for about 100 years ago....

Of course, that led to the wonders of climate change today. But the point still stands.

That could be but it is more fossil carbon.

WOW! This only 5 decades too late for market launch. Nevertheless, I'm convinced of Gorbachev's statement, "He who comes too late, will be punished by life". And here is proof to that statement:

All dead humans are radioactive waste because they were radioactive when they were alive. Look up Potassium 40; it has a billion year half life.

The consumption of fossil fuels by automobiles can be reduced immediately by 30 to 60 percent and the technology is known and has been available for many years; it is the use of digital control of hydraulic pumps and motors combined with storing energy from braking and the engine in pressure accumulators. The savings are from energy recovery, little engine idling and smaller engines used more efficiently. The simplest engine to use may be one or more hydraulic pumps demonstrated by INNAS-NOAX that have no crankshaft and the piston moves only when energy is needed and is computer controlled.

Hydraulic systems are much cheaper and more lightweight than electric systems and digital control makes them efficient and allows for better energy recovery. The elimination of half of the fuel use is sufficient reason to require all car makers to use the ArtemisIP or a similar system for a transmission.

All people who wish to support the limitation of the release of CO2 into the air in any way should never allow themselves to drive over 50 miles per hour. Sufficient information exists that shows driving faster releases more CO2 per mile of travel.

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