|Overview of Syntec’s B2A process. Click to enlarge.|
Syntec Biofuel Inc. has entered into a joint development program with the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota (UND) in Grand Forks for converting a wide variety of biomass and waste into bio-butanol. The core process utilizes Syntec’s high-performance catalyst technology in conjunction with an upgrading process exclusively licensed from the EERC Foundation.
Butanol (C4H10O), a four-carbon alcohol in widespread use as an industrial solvent, has an energy content closer to gasoline than ethanol’s. It is non-corrosive, can be distributed through existing pipelines, and can be—but does not have to be—blended with fossil fuels.
Butanol’s low vapor pressure and its tolerance to water contamination in gasoline blends facilitate its use in existing gasoline supply and distribution channels. It has the potential to be blended into gasoline at larger concentrations than existing biofuels without the need to retrofit vehicles and it offers better fuel economy than gasoline-ethanol blends, improving a car’s fuel efficiency and mileage.
Originally produced by fermentation starting nearly 90 years ago (using Clostridia acetobutylicum), butanol shifted to becoming a petrochemically-derived product in the 1950s as the price of petrochemicals dropped below that of starch and sugar substrates such as corn and molasses. Virtually all of the butanol is use today is produced petrochemically, although a number of initiatives—such as the BP-DuPont partnership—are targeting commercially viable production of bio-butanol via fermentation. (Earlier post.)
We are delighted to work with the EERC, a leader in the field of biomass gasification and liquefaction able to contribute its expertise to assist Syntec in our quest toward commercialization. We are not aware of any other company in the world that is developing a thermochemical process utilizing nonfood materials to predominantly produce bio-butanol. In a joint venture with DuPont, BP is building a demonstration plant in the United Kingdom to convert sugar into bio-butanol. This is concerning, as it uses food resources to produce fuel.
—Michael Jackson, CEO of Syntec
The EERC is very pleased to be partnering with Syntec. Combining the EERC’s expertise in biomass conversion and butanol production with Syntec’s unique catalyst technology will provide an excellent commercial opportunity to provide the world with an economical and sustainable renewable fuel option.
—EERC Director Gerald Groenewold
Syntec’s B2A (‘biomass to alcohol’) thermo-chemical technology (earlier post), initially developed at the University of British Columbia, gasifies waste biomass such as hard or soft wood, sawdust or bark, organic waste, agricultural waste (including sugar cane bagasse and corn stover), or switch-grass to produce syngas. This syngas is then scrubbed and passed through a fixed bed reactor containing Syntec catalysts to produce ethanol, methanol, n-butanol and n-propanol. Syntec says it currently has one of the highest-yielding catalysts within its sector.
The EERC is one of the leading developers of cleaner, more efficient energy and environmental technologies. A high-tech, nonprofit branch of UND, it pursues an entrepreneurial, market-driven approach to research and development in order to successfully demonstrate innovative technologies and commercialize them through its EERC Foundation and many clients. Since 1987, the EERC has had nearly 1,100 clients in 50 states and 51 countries. The EERC’s current research portfolio tops $236 million.