ECONOMICS OF CHEMICAL
Russian Journal of Applied Chemistry, 2008, Vol. 81, No. 12, pp. 2232−2236. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2008.
Original Russian Text © O.I. Shapovalov, L.A. Ashkinazi, 2008, published in Khimicheskaya Promyshlennost’, 2008, Vol. 85, No. 4, pp. 203−208.
Biobutanol: Biofuel of Second Generation
O. I. Shapovalov
and L. A. Ashkinazi
Scientiﬁ c and Research Institute of Hydrolysis, St. Petersburg, Russia
Academy of Application Research, St. Petersburg, Russia
Received June 5, 2008
First of all, butanol is used as industrial solvent.
World market for this product is estimately 350 million
gallons per year, of which 220 million gallon/year is the
fraction consumed by USA. Butanol can be used instead
of gasoline even in higher degree than ethanol due to its
physical properties, economy, safety and because it can
be applied without remodeling car engine.
Progress in the area of biotechnology allows to use
corn and other biomass as economically effective source
The main reason that nobody know butanol as
an alternative fuel is the fact that its producing has never
been suggested economically reasonable. As mentioned
above, this product is used mainly as industrial solvent
and costs triple compared to gas. Traditional process of
fermentation allows to produce from one bushel of corn
(or 35 pounds of sugar) only 1.3 gallons of butanol,
0.7 gallons of acetone, 0.33 gallons of ethanol and
0.62 pounds of hydrogen. Such manufacturing of butanol
can not compete with the technology of producing ethanol
that yelds 2.85 gallons of the product per bushel.
The alcohol based fuel including butanol and ethanol
is partially oxidized (compared to hydrocarbons) and
therefore mixture for engine should be more enriched
than in the case of gasoline.
As compared with ethanol, butanol can be used as
a mixure with gasoline in higher proportion and thus can
be used in currently working cars without modiﬁ cation of
their system for the formation of air–fuel mixture.
The alcohol based fuel contains less energy per unit
of weight or volume than gasoline and its mixture with
air should be more enriched. Per one cycle of engine
running, butanol liberates more pure energy than ethanol
Industrial producing of butanol began in 1916. That
time was used a method of ABE fermentation (ABE
abbreviates acetone, butanol and ethanol) with bacteria
Clostridia acetobutylicum. This microorganism was ﬁ rst
Weizman (US Patent 1 315 585), a student
Luis Paster; the microorganism produces acetone.
In the time of First World War, England asked the
young microbiologist to resign the right for producing
by this method of acetone for further manufacturing
smokeless powder cordit. This process was used up to
1920th exclusively for producing acetone. However,
at the fermentation, yield of each pound of acetone is
accompanied by formation of two pounds of butanol.
Somebody once mixed nitrocellulose with butanol and
thus obtained quickly drying lacquer. Three years later,
automobile industry changed whole market completely,
and to 1927 butanol became the main product of ABE
process. In the time of Second World War it was used for
producing synthetic rubber.
So, in the ﬁ rst half of 20th century biobutanol was
produced from corn and molasses by fermentation. This
process affords acetone, butanol and ethanol (therefore
it is denoted as ABE process). However with growing
demand for butanol its producing by fermentation began
to fall because since 1954 the price of petroleum becomes
below those of sugar because USA lost cheap sugar supply
Now butanol is produced starting with petroleum via
hydrolysis of haloalkanes or hydration of alkenes.
Butanol can be produced from biomass and from
mineral fuel. The butanol from biomass is conveniently
denoted as biobutanol despite the fact that it has the same
characteristics as the butanol from petroleum.