September 20th, 2007 02:08 EST
DuPont Develops World's First Advanced Biofuel
Washington -- David Anton, DuPont`s venture manager for development of biobutanol, the world`s first advanced biofuel, thinks a lot about the high-energy content of gasoline that is missing from traditional ethanol fuels. This deficiency is one reason automakers and the driving public have been slow to commit to fuels that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It`s becoming more obvious, " Anton says, that ethanol doesn`t have the same energy density as gasoline. It`s about 65 percent of the energy density of gasoline, so you`re going to get lower gas mileage for every tank of fuel. " DuPont set out in 2003 to develop a biofuel that actually can match the high-energy output of gasoline. Biobutanol will be the first of those biofuels to reach global markets.
Biobutanol has about 85 percent of the energy content of gasoline, " says Anton. Existing automobiles can run on it without modification, and when it is blended with gasoline, as ethanol is today in many regions of the globe, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum use. You`ll see basically no difference between gasoline and biobutanol, " Anton says.
Biobutanol will make its debut this fall in the United Kingdom. It is the brainchild of a partnership between DuPont, the second-largest chemical company in the United States, and energy company BP, which will distribute and market biobutanol mixed with gasoline. In addition to its higher energy content, biobutanol can be distributed through existing pipelines, while ethanol cannot. It also can be produced from a variety of plant crops -- wheat, corn, sugar cane and others.
Local economies have different feed stocks, and this technology can be tailored to feed stock availability, " says Michelle Reardon, a DuPont spokeswoman. It`s going to provide new markets for key crops. "
DuPont, a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of major corporations and environmental organizations committed to urgent action to control climate change, more than 16 years ago established environmental goals. One of the first U.S. companies to broaden sustainability commitments beyond its own internal operations, DuPont developed a market-driven plan to generate revenue by relying on innovative research and investment in biofuels.
DuPont`s goals involve a three-pronged strategy: First, improve traditional ethanol production through the development of new corn hybrids that will produce greater crop yields per hectare of land. The company`s research on corn hybrids is ongoing in the United States and other countries.
Second, DuPont set out to develop a new cellulosic biofuel production process, to use the entire corn plant to make ethanol. Today, ethanol is made using only the corn kernels. Corn stover -- that is, the leaves, stalk and cobs from the corn left in the field after harvest -- cannot be made into ethanol. But DuPont`s new cellulosic process can turn the entire corn plant into fuel.
In March, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $80 million to Broin Companies to accelerate construction of a commercial-scale biorefinery in Iowa using DuPont`s new cellulosic technology. Broin, the largest dry-grind ethanol producer in the United States, was licensed by DuPont to commercialize the new process.
The third prong of DuPont`s strategy is to develop advanced biofuels that have greater commercial viability, but that also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biobutanol, the first, will be available to the British public at about the same time climate change and clean energy take center stage at the first Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, hosted by President Bush, September 27-28 in Washington.
Biobutanol`s initial impact on climate change is not yet certain because that will depend on the mix of gasoline and biobutanol BP uses in the fuel. Anton believes the resulting fuel is likely to be around 16 percent biobutanol and 84 percent gasoline initially. So if we`re replacing 16 percent of the petroleum, there should be a 16 percent reduction in carbon emissions. We aren`t sure of the exact amount yet, but this is a low-carbon fuel and that`s what we`re after. "
Where DuPont will take biobutanol next after the United Kingdom is the subject of discussion inside the company and with its corporate partners. If introduction of the fuel goes well, Anton believes biobutanol will be of great interest to countries that import a significant amount of petroleum, but have multiple crops that can be converted to biobutanol. While corn is abundant in the United States, Anton mentions another major feed crop of interest to DuPont: sugar cane.
In terms of climate change, sugar cane is a significant feed crop for biobutanol production. Sugar cane requires fewer chemicals than any other crop, except pasture, and its dense leaves absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas linked to climate change. Most sugar cane is raised in countries with warm climates, such as Brazil, India, China and the countries of Latin America, some of them large importers of petroleum. We`ve been in China and India, certainly, " Anton said, and there are lots of reasons to go there. But we`re evaluating all the major countries in the world as to what our approach to them should be. "
For more information on U.S. policies, see Climate Change and Clean Energy.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Amanda Spake
USINFO Special Correspondent
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