A team of engineers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) recently discovered that a naturally occurring bacterium, Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum TG57, isolated from waste generated after harvesting mushrooms, is capable of directly converting cellulose to biobutanol. In an open-access paper in the journal Science Advances, the research team, led by... Read more →


Researchers at Princeton University have used light to control genetically modified Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast—i.e., optogenetic control—and to increase its output of commercially valuable chemicals. In a paper in the journal Nature, the researchers reported that they used light to increase yeast’s production of the chemical isobutanol as much as 5... Read more →


The US Department of Energy launched three Bioenergy Research Centers just over ten years ago (earlier post). Of them, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, had a goal of turning more of the corn plant—the stalk and leaves that makes up the stover—into... Read more →


Evea study estimates 69% reduction in GHG emissions for Global Bioenergies’ fully renewable ETBE compared to fossil gasoline

Life-cycle analysis specialist EVEA has estimated that fully renewable ETBE produced by the Global Bioenergies’ IBN-One plant would enable 69% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil gasoline. This figure was calculated for the current design planned for the IBN-One plant using a greenhouse gases emissions calculator based on... Read more →


A team at the University of Birmingham reports that a blend of 33% v/v of butanol in EN228 commercial gasoline containing 5% of ethanol (B33) reduces GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine-out carbonaceous emissions, while maintaining similar levels of NOx emissions when compared to standard gasoline combustion at low and medium... Read more →


Praj, Gevo to enter commercialization phase of Gevo isobutanol technology for sugarcane and molasses feedstocks

Praj Industries and Gevo announced that Gevo’s proprietary isobutanol technology will now be available for licensing to processors of sugarcane juice and molasses. This follows on the back of Praj’s development work, adapting Gevo’s technology to sugarcane and molasses feedstocks. (Earlier post.) The two companies entered into a Development Agreement... Read more →


Autonomous vehicle company Nauto closes $159M round; Softbank, Greylock join BMW, GM, Toyota

Autonomous vehicle technology company Nauto (earlier post) closed a $159-million Series B financing round, led by a subsidiary of SoftBank Group Corp. and Greylock Partners. Other participants include previous strategic investors BMW iVentures, General Motors Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures and the venture unit of global financial services and insurance provider... Read more →


Taiwan team engineers E. coli to produce n-butanol from glycerol

Researchers at Feng Chia University in Taiwan have engineered the bacterium Escherichia coli to produce n-butanol from crude glycerol—a byproduct of the production of biodiesel. In an open-access paper in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, they report that under microaerobic conditions, the engineered strain produced 6.9 g/L n-butanol from 20... Read more →


Argonne, NREL, Gevo to develop predictive octane blending model for isobutanol and gasoline

Gevo has been selected to collaborate with Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) received funding to develop a predictive octane blending model for isobutanol and gasoline blendstocks for oxygenated blending (BOBs). While it is known that isobutanol increases octane when blended into BOBs, the effect is... Read more →


BP, DuPont JV Butamax acquires ethanol plant to add bio-isobutanol production capability as demo plant

Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, a 50/50 joint venture between BP and DuPont, acquired Nesika Energy, LLC and its ethanol facility in Scandia, Kansas. Butamax will now start the detailed engineering work to add bio-isobutanol capacity to the facility, while continuing to produce ethanol before and after adding this capacity. Butamax... Read more →


Gevo, Inc. announced that a 12.5% blend of its bio-isobutanol with gasoline marketed for use in automobiles has begun to be sold in the Houston area. This marks the first time that Gevo’s isobutanol has been specifically targeted towards on-road vehicles. Previously, Gevo and its partners have focused on specialty... Read more →


Bio-isobutanol company Gevo signs licensing and joint development agreements with Porta in Argentina; corn feedstock

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a license agreement and a joint development agreement with Porta Hnos S.A. to construct multiple isobutanol plants in Argentina using corn as a feedstock. The first plant is to be wholly owned by Porta and is anticipated to begin producing isobutanol in 2017. The plant... Read more →


Researchers improve efficiency of ethanol-to-butanol conversion with new bifunctional catalyst

Researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Ottawa (Canada) have developed a highly selective (>99%) tandem catalytic system—a bifunctional iridium catalyst coupled with bulky nickel or copper hydroxides—for the conversion of ethanol (up to 37%) to n-butanol, through the Guerbet process. The team was able to increase... Read more →


Bio-isobutanol company Gevo enters major licensing and development agreement with Praj

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a license agreement and a joint development agreement with Praj Industries Limited to enable the licensing of Gevo’s isobutanol technology to processors of non-corn based sugars, including the majority of Praj’s global customer base of ethanol plant owners. The two companies had signed a memorandum... Read more →


Butamax and Gevo cross-license & settle litigation on bio-isobutanol; Butamax to lead w/ gasoline blending, Gevo w/ alcohol-to-jet

Gevo, Inc. and Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC, a joint venture between BP and DuPont, have entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements, ending a patent dispute that stretches back to 2011 related to technologies for the production of bio-based isobutanol. (Earlier post.) This settlement ends all of the lawsuits... Read more →


Synbio company Intrexon and Dominion partner to commercialize bioconversion of natural gas to isobutanol in Marcellus and Utica Basins

Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture of synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and external investors (earlier post), and Dominion Energy, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, have entered into an agreement to explore the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol in the Marcellus and Utica Shale... Read more →


DOE BESC engineered microbe improves biobutanol yield from cellulose by a factor of 10

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) have engineered a microbe that improves isobutanol yields from cellulose by a factor of 10. The work, published in the journal Metabolic Engineering, builds on results from 2011 in which researchers reported on the first genetically engineered microbe... Read more →


National Marine Manufacturers Association endorses use of isobutanol in marine fuel market

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... Read more →


DOE BETO awards $10M to 7 advanced biofuels projects

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has selected seven projects to receive up to $10 million to support innovative technologies and solutions to help advance the development of advanced biofuels, including bugaboo and drop-in hydrocarbons. The Bioenergy Technologies Office is working to produce cost-competitive ($3/gallon of... Read more →


Gevo produced more than 50K gallons of renewable isobutanol in December

Gevo, Inc., the only commercial producer of renewable isobutanol, reported that in December 2014, it produced more than 50,000 gallons (~190,000 liters) of isobutanol through the Side-by-Side operational mode (SBS) of its plant in Luverne, MN, meeting the lower end of the company’s target. In June 2014, Gevo commenced the... Read more →


UC Riverside researchers find mixed emissions impact from use of higher ethanol and butanol fuels in FFVs

A study by University of California, Riverside researchers found that the use of higher ethanol blends and a 55% butanol blend in port-fueled and direct injection flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) could lead to emission changes of GHGs, CO, aldehydes, BTEX (monoaromatic hydrocarbons of benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, m/p-xylene, and o-xylene), and... Read more →


UCLA researchers develop synthetic biocatalytic pathway for more efficient conversion of methanol to longer-chain fuels

Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science led by Dr. James Liao have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, and that would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The UCLA team constructed a synthetic biocatalytic pathway that... Read more →


California Energy Commission to award up to $3M for advanced biofuel projects

The California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) announced (PON-14-602) the availability of up to $3 million in grant funds for biofuels projects that are in the early/pre-commercial technology development stage. This solicitation is emphasizing transformative technology solutions to significant biofuels industry problems that increase... Read more →


Emissions study suggests E10 + renewable hydrocarbons a high bioenergy alternative for conventional cars

Researchers from VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and Neste Oil analyzed the exhaust emissions from three different spark ignition engine technologies—multipoint fuel injection (MPFI); direct-injection spark-ignition (DISI); and flex-fuel (FFV)—using different biofuels—low- and high-concentration ethanol blends; isobutanol; and biohydrocarbons. They report their findings in a paper in the ACS... Read more →


Cobalt and Andritz sign exclusive agreement for technology and engineering for production of cellulosic n-butanol

Cobalt Technologies, Inc. signed an exclusive global cooperation and supply agreement with Andritz Inc., the US subsidiary of international technology Group Andritz, to integrate Cobalt’s proprietary lignocellulosic pre-treatment process for the production of n-butanol with Andritz’s customized pre-treatment systems. The primary alcohol n-butanol has traditionally been produced from fossil fuels.... Read more →


Synthetic biology company launches JV to commercialize gas-to-liquids bioconversion; isobutanol first target

Synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation has formed Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture with a group of external investors, to optimize and to scale-up Intrexon’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) bioconversion platform. IEP’s first target product is isobutanol for gasoline blending. Intrexon’s natural gas upgrading program is targeting the development of an... Read more →


Gevo transitioning Luverne plant to produce both isobutanol and ethanol; “side-by-side” configuration

Bio-isobutanol company Gevo, Inc. is transitioning its Luverne plant to the production of both isobutanol and ethanol. Gevo said that its decision—announced during its 4Q 2013 earnings call—to transition to the simultaneous production of both products is a direct result of (1) the steady progress made in executing its flexible... Read more →


(Left) Thermal efficiency and (right) soot from different gasoline-butanol blends at different EGR rates. Yang et al. Click to enlarge. A study by a team at Tianjin University found that the addition of n-butanol to gasoline for use in a compression ignition engine (CI) under Low Temperature Combustion (LTC) conditions... Read more →


Estimated gasoline equivalent MPG of each fuel and combustion strategy in a midsize sedan at a 65 mph steady cruise condition, referenced to chassis dyno data of the production GM Ecotec SI engine and vehicle. CDC = conventional diesel combustion. Credit: ACS, Splitter and Szybist (2014a). Click to enlarge. Researchers... Read more →


Bio-isobutanol company Gevo, Inc. announced that the US Army has successfully flown the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on a 50:50 blend of Gevo’s ATJ-8 (Alcohol-to-Jet)—a renewable, drop-in alternative fuel for JP8 derived from isobutanol. (Earlier post.) This flight marks the first Army Aircraft to fly on the isobutanol ATJ... Read more →


Summary of significant emissions results from the fuel testing. Credit: ACS, Ratcliff et al. Click to enlarge. Results of a study led by a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the impact of butanol-gasoline blends on light-duty vehicle emissions suggest that widespread deployment of n-butanol or i-butanol in... Read more →


Sandia partnering with MOgene on ARPA-E project for sunlight-assisted microbial conversion of methane to butanol

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories will use their expertise in protein expression, enzyme engineering and high-throughput assays as part of a two-year, $1.5-million award led by MOgene Green Chemicals (MGC, a wholly owned subsidiary of genomics services provider MOgene) targeting the sunlight-assisted conversion of methane to butanol. The project is... Read more →


ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute), a Taiwan-based high-tech applied research institution, is introducing ButyFix, a technology for cellulosic bio-butanol production with a negative carbon footprint. ButyFix uses a three-step process: (1) the hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose to release sugars; (2) fermentation of the sugars to produce butyrate; and (3)... Read more →


Converting a corn ethanol plant to produce biobutanol requires changes to the fermentation step (mainly a new microorganism) and to alcohol recovery from the fermentation. Source: Butamax. Click to enlarge. Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, the biobutanol technology company formed as a joint venture between DuPont and BP, and Highwater Ethanol... Read more →


Gevo opens renewable paraxylene plant next to renewable jet fuel plant; bio-isobutanol biorefinery

Bio-isobutanol producer Gevo, Inc. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its demonstration-scale paraxylene (p-xylene) plant in Silsbee, Texas. The paraxylene facility is located adjacent to Gevo’s existing jet fuel plant in Silsbee, and establishes the site as a biorefinery that will serve the renewable chemicals and drop-in biofuels markets. Gevo has... Read more →


New synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for direct production of isobutanol from biomass

A team from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and UCLA has designed synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for the direct production of isobutanol from biomass. The required biological functions are divided between two specialists: the fungus Trichoderma reesei, which secretes cellulase enzymes to hydrolyze lignocellulosic biomass into soluble saccharides, and the... Read more →


Coast Guard crewmembers train aboard a 38-foot Special Purpose Craft – Training Boat. Source: USCG. Click to enlarge. Biobutanol producer Gevo, Inc. has begun supplying the U.S. Coast Guard R&D Center with initial quantities of finished 16.1% renewable isobutanol-blended gasoline for engine testing. The US Coast Guard R&D Center is... Read more →


New catalysts convert ethanol to butanol with high selectivity; potential low-cost upgrade for ethanol plants

Researchers at the University of Bristol (UK) have developed a new family of catalysts that enables the conversion of ethanol into n-butanol—a higher alcohol with better characteristics for transportation applications than ethanol—with selectivity of more than 95% at good conversion. The team presented a pair of papers on their work... Read more →


Total Biofuels production by fuel type, world markets: 2013-2023. Source: Navigant. Click to enlarge. Navigant Research forecasts global biofuels production will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% between 2013 and 2023, despite slower than expected development of advanced biofuels pathways (such as cellulosic biofuels); an expected... Read more →


Study explores impact of alcohol-gasoline blends with early inlet valve closing at low and moderate loads on EGR tolerance

A team from Brunel University, MAHLE Powertrain and University College London studied the combined effects of different inlet valve operating strategies on combustion, performance and emissions with different ethanol and 1-butanol blends with gasoline in a single-cylinder spark-ignition research engine equipped with a fully variable valvetrain. Their paper is published... Read more →


MIT team shows targeting metabolic pathways to mitochondria significantly boosts yeast production of isobutanol; potential for other chemicals as well

Researchers from MIT and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have devised a way to boost significantly isobutanol production in yeast by engineering isobutanol synthesis to take place entirely within mitochondria. They showed that targeting metabolic pathways to mitochondria can increase production compared with overexpression of the enzymes involved in... Read more →


Researchers significantly boost yield of isobutanol from engineered yeast using new synthesis pathway located in the cytosol

A team at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, Goethe-University Frankfurt led by Prof. Dr. Eckhard Boles, has developed a new synthesis pathway for engineering the industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to improve the production of isobutanol via fermentation. The work, noted Boles, is being done for the Swiss biofuels and biochemical... Read more →


Strategies for characterizing the complex butanol-forming routes by metabolic engineering coupled with system-level metabolic flux and mass balance analyses. Jang et al. Click to enlarge. Using a systems metabolic engineering approach, researchers in Korea have improved the butanol production performance of Clostridium acetobutylicum, one of the best known butanol-producing bacteria.... Read more →


MIT researchers modify soil bacterium for biosynthesis of isobutanol using carbon

Researchers at MIT have modified the soil bacterium Ralstonia eutropha to produce isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol (branched-chain higher alcohols). These branched-chain higher alcohols can directly substitute for fossil-based fuels and be employed within the current infrastructure. The work is funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency –... Read more →


Cobalt Technologies and Rhodia to build bio n-butanol demonstration facility in Latin America

Cobalt Technologies, a developer of next-generation bio-based chemicals, and specialty chemical company Rhodia, member of the Solvay Group, will begin joint development and operation of a bio-butanol demonstration facility in Brazil. (Earlier post.) This is one more step by the two companies toward the construction of commercial-scale biorefineries using Cobalt’s... Read more →


Gevo and Beta Renewables (Chemtex/TPG) to develop integrated process for cellulosic isobutanol

Gevo, Inc. signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) with Beta Renewables, a joint venture between Chemtex and TPG, to develop an integrated process for the production of bio-based isobutanol from cellulosic, non-food biomass. The project would integrate Beta’s PROESA technology and Gevo’s GIFT and ATJ technologies, with anticipated production plants... Read more →


Bio-isobutanol patent struggle: US District Court denies Butamax’s motion for preliminary injunction against Gevo

The US District Court of Delaware has denied the Motion for Preliminary Injunction sought by Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC (Butamax)—the biobutanol joint venture between BP and DuPont—against biobutanol company Gevo. (Case 1:11-cv-00054-SLR) This decision replaces a previous order enjoining Gevo from selling to new customers. Gevo for now is clear... Read more →


Obama Administration releases National Bioeconomy Blueprint; health, food, energy and environment

The White House today released a national Bioeconomy Blueprint, a comprehensive approach to harnessing innovations in biological research to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment. In coordination with the Blueprint’s release, Federal officials also announced a number of new commitments to help achieve the Blueprint’s goals.... Read more →


An integrated electromicrobial process to convert CO2 to higher alcohols. Electricity powered the electrochemical CO2 reduction on the cathode to produce formate, which is converted to isobutanol and 3MB by the engineered R. eutropha. Li et al. Click to enlarge. Researchers at UCLA have demonstrated a method for converting carbon... Read more →


Overview of the NAWCWD alcohol-to-jet process. Source: NAWCWD. Click to enlarge. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake has awarded a contract to Albemarle Corporation to complete the first biojet fuel production run based on bio n-butanol provided by Cobalt Technologies. For this production run, Albemarle will... Read more →