Taiwan’s ITRI introduces cellulosic bio-butanol production technology; pathway with highest carbon conversion yield

29 October 2013

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) the chemical conversion of butyrate via esterification and hydrogenation to butanol.

ITRI uses a metal salt/organic acid “eco-solvent” in its hydrolysis process; the crystalline structure of cellulose is first destroyed, forming a soluble ester, which is then hydrolyzed by the organic acid to glucose. The process operates in mild temperatures; benchmarking results cited by ITRI show a 95 wt.% total sugar yield.

ITRI uses proprietary processes to regulate certain genes in specially adapted micro-organism and re-directs the CO2 generated during fermentation to the desired pathway where the CO2 can be re-utilized. This results in high yields of butyrate and eliminates CO2 emissions from the fermentation process.

ButyFix has a theoretical maximum carbon conversion yield of 100%, ITRI says, meaning that all carbon can be fixed in the product by fermentation if the process is optimized. By contrast, all other current fermentation processes for ethanol or butanol production have a theoretical maximum carbon conversion yield of 67% because of two molecular CO2 emitted per glucose molecule consumed.

 ITRI says that ButyFix is the leader in yield. Source: Tong 2013. Click to enlarge.

ITRI has shown it can achieve a butyrate yield of 0.70 g/g-sugar, which is 94% of carbon conversion yield. This carbon yield is 2.67 times of traditional acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) process. The same strain can also convert different sugars at relatively high efficiencies.

ButyFix butanol can achieve a transportation-fuel price of US$2.00/gallon, according to ITRI—well below current gasoline and bio-ethanol prices and without government subsidies. ButyFix is available for licensing to biofuel- and chemical-processing organizations. ITRI received a 2013 R&D 100 Award for this development. Resources Comments Combine this with PHEVs, and it may be possible to de-carbonize transport. IF COMES TO MARKET FAST IT WILL HELP WORLD FIGHT POLLUTION AND OPEC AND PROVIDE VAST EMPLOYMENT WORLD OVER. Im interrested to buy it for my dodge neon 2005 5 speeds at his birthday. At 2.00$/gallon i might change my gasoline tank for a bigger one.

This sounds really good and I hope that this works out especially if they can really produce bio-butanol at $2.00 gal. However, I have a vague memory of someone promising$0.75/gal ethanol from trash using some high temperature process (plasma?). Also, the third step of the above process apparently needs a source of hydrogen.

One reference for my vague memory: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/03/future_fuels_an.html There was also a company that started with K (something like Koska but that is not correct) involved in this.

Coskata?

Coskata which was backed by Khosla, a venture capital group. Too many k's, s's, o's, and a's to keep track of.

Anyway, they have apparently quit trying to make alcohol from biomass and are planning to use natural gas as a feedstock. The message is that this is not as easy at it might appear.

Current ultra cheap NS-SG in USA puts pressure on other 'alternative' feedstock technologies?

Since Shale Gas is plentiful and will be so for the next 20+ years, other technologies will have to be supported to survive in USA. In many other places, where the price of NG-SG is 3 to 4 times higher, it will be different.

Coskata has micro organisms that covert syngas to ethanol.
Any source of syngas works. Can be biomass or coal or NG.
Unfortunately, NG is cheaper now...

"Combine this with PHEVs, and it may be possible to de-carbonize transport."

Wrong again, batteries are just an energy carrier. The source is fossil fuel.

About 30% of US net generation is carbon-free nuclear, hydro, and other.

Jaw dropping.
I suppose solar thermal storage / wind could provide other
process energy.
With unseasonal wild fires becoming regular threat, pose fuel reduction options.
Tasmanian academic, author 'Wilding, fire behavior analyst,, proposes megafauna introduction as a low carbon fire hazard reduction solution.
Camels, goats, even elephants as an important fuel reduction strategy should be seriously considered as alternative to hazard reduction burnings.
Recent revision of reduction burn frequency required has been suggested as high as annually in some forest types other rainforest areas need protection.
If fuel reduction can be achieved as part of this bio fuel process, economic and carbon intensity returns become more diverse.

batteries are just an energy carrier. The source is fossil fuel.... About 30% of US net generation is carbon-free nuclear, hydro, and other.

It's probably about 45% for night time charging, when nuclear stays the same and consumption drops sharply.

And, of course, wind and nuclear will become more profitable if demand picks up at night, which will help those sources grow.

This is a nit, but I suspect that the night-time average is closer to 30%.  Nuclear is roughly 90 GW, and managers would rather reserve hydro for the afternoon peak.

My old estimate of the increase in demand from full electrification of surface transport is 180 GW average.  Adding 180 GW of nuclear plants (to charge batteries at night and run direct-powered systems during the day) would boost the carbon-free fraction quite a bit.  The 180 GW figure for the increase in base load may be low, because batteries charged exclusively at night would increase the wee-hours load by a lot more than that.  This would slash the demand for cycling and peaking generators.

Repetition is the key to learning.

Batteries are just an energy carrier. The source is fossil fuel.

Improving the merits of the energy supply on the grid,does not translate in general to PHEV. The exception to this is any time periods when all the fossil plants are off line and hydro or nukes are load follow.