Havasu gas station introduces new biofuel [for boats]

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  • By BRANDON MESSICK Today’s News-Herald

A Lake Havasu City gas station may be the first in the nation to offer a new form of ethanol-free biofuel.

Campbell Cove 1-Stop is now offering isobutanol – a corn-derived biofuel that claims to offer about 30 percent more energy content than ethanol while remaining environmentally sustainable. The fuel also differs from ethanol-based biofuel in that it doesn’t absorb moisture or create excess pressure, which can otherwise lead to long-term engine damage.

The gas station, located at 1521 Industrial Blvd, began selling the fuel in late August. The new product replaced Campbell Cove 1-Stop’s 100-octane racing fuel, which was dispensed using red pumps at the station. The pumps are of a larger size than standard for street vehicles, and according to employees of the store, are only compatible with boats and off-road vehicles.

Campbell Cove owner Jim Dolan foresees a higher demand for isobutanol in the near future. The new biofuel is 91-octane, making it equivalent to super unleaded gasoline offered by most gas stations. The fuel is processed by Musket Corp, and distributed to Dolan’s business through Jackson Oil.

“I think we’re the first to offer it in the U.S.,” Dolan said. “The Lake Havasu Marine Association talked about it, and GEVO has worked with a lot of manufacturers to solve the problems with ethanol. I hope it will eventually become a replacement for ethanol.”

The biofuel is distributed by GEVO Marine Fuels. The company says five years of research and thousands of hours of laboratory and on-water testing were applied in the fuel’s creation, which applied a different chemical process to the creation of corn-based fuel additives. The company says its fuel will eliminate negative impacts associated with ethanol and blended fuels while remaining fully compatible with boat engines and small engines, as well as gas-powered generators.

“Isobutanol is about 50 cents more expensive than premium gasoline, but I hope the price goes down once its use becomes more widespread,” Dolan said. “With our boat traffic, I saw a bigger opportunity with isobutanol than our 100-octane racing fuel.”

The new biofuel was approved in June 2015 by the National Marine Manufacturers Association as a drop-in fuel for marine and recreational boat engines.

GEVO has already eyed markets elsewhere in Mohave County for isobutanol, and Wet Monkey Boat Rentals, at 1685 Industrial Blvd, has already begun to use the biofuel exclusively in its rental watercraft, Dolan says.
Isobutanol is about 50 cents more expensive than premium gasoline...

How many mpg compared to regular gasoline ?

What are the tax subsidies?

How many gallons of water ( and gallons of regular gasoline ) are needed to produce 10 gallons of Isobutanol ?

Damage to engines and ... ?
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Isobutanol is about 50 cents more expensive than premium gasoline...

How many mpg compared to regular gasoline ?

What are the tax subsidies?

How many gallons of water ( and gallons of regular gasoline ) are needed to produce 10 gallons of Isobutanol ?

Damage to engines and ... ?

For the record I have long opposed ethanol..... but that horse has left the barn and we are not going to be able to put it back into a pen........ so the only alternative is to find something less damaging to our vehicles and boats.......

It says their research shows it less damaging to engine components, which has been a big issue [as we all know] with the addition of ethanol to fuel. Isn't it possible the increased price will be offset in the cost of repairs [if this is accurate]? Perhaps this article helps a bit.........


Can Isobutanol Replace Ethanol?

Gevo can make a isobutanol, a fossil fuel substitute, with the same tools others use to make less valuable ethanol. Is this a microbe marriage made in heaven?

by Michael Kanellos
June 01, 2011

There’s a good chance you’ve paid quite a bit of money to drink isobutanol.

“One of the flavor notes of scotch is isobutanol,” says Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo, adding that the naturally occurring chemical accounts for a good portion of the difference in taste between scotch and bourbon.

While Gevo is not in the liquor business, the company is betting that bio-based isobutanol will become a mainstay in the biochemistry/biofuel market, in part because of the inherent chemical advantages the substance has over ethanol.

Simply put, isobutanol -- which can be produced out of corn starch, cellulosic materials, agricultural residues and other ethanol feedstocks -- is an alcohol that acts like a hydrocarbon. The four-carbon molecule can be shipped in existing pipelines and blended with a variety of fossil fuel-based materials to produce greener versions of jet fuel, rubber, polyethylene or diesel.

Gevo has developed a genetically modified yeast that eats those feedstocks and secretes isobutanol. Currently, isobutanol comes from fossil fuels.

By contrast, ethanol is a soluble alcohol, one of the typical yeast byproducts. It corrodes pipelines, absorbs water and can only be used in certain applications like transportation fuel. Arguably worst of all, it has a lower energy density. A gallon of ethanol only contains around 67 percent of the energy of a gallon of gas. Biobutanol contains 82 percent, according to Gevo.

Meanwhile, the similarities between isobutanol and ethanol give Gevo an edge over some other bio-hydrocarbon makers. Because Gevo starts with a yeast, fermentation and similar feedstocks, the company can employ mothballed equipment and even entire ethanol distilleries as a foundation for its own factories. It will cost about 45 cents a gallon to retrofit a 100-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant to produce Gevo’s isobutanol, says the company.

Whether or not the firm can pull this off remains to be seen. But at least Gevo is off the drawing board. The company, which held a successful IPO early this year, already has a facility in Colorado that produces a million gallons of fluids each year. It breaks ground this week on an 18-million-gallon-a-year facility in Luverne, Minnesota that can be expanded to 40 million gallons a year. Isobutanol will start to come out of the Luverne facility in 2012.

Joint ventures with established manufacturers will follow. Gruber, like other execs at Gevo, came from Cargill.

“We want to have 350 million gallons of capacity by 2015,” he added.

Lanxess, a large rubber producer and Gevo investor, recently showed off a rubber ball produced from an isobutene derived from Gevo’s chemicals.

Gevo isn’t alone: Amyris has produced a yeast that eats sugar and secretes hydrocarbons, but its bug generates a 15-carbon molecule called biofene. Amyris recently announced it can produce around 4 million gallons a year (17 million liters) of its specialty chemical cocktail. Gevo also faces a nasty lawsuit with Butamax Advanced Biofuels, a joint venture from BP and DuPont, that has nothing to do with top-quality home entertainment systems from the '80s. (Side note: Solazyme also employs sugar, fermentation and GMOs to produce algae oils. Go, team fermentation!)

Conventional oil prices are an omnipresent threat to biofuels, but Gruber notes that trends favor Gevo and others. When oil sells for $60 a barrel, starch-based biofuel companies can compete in the $10 billion specialty chemical markets if starches sell for $245 a metric ton. At $90 a barrel, starch can rise to $267 a ton and the potential market expands to $40 billion. With oil at $135 a barrel, starch can rise to $289 a metric ton and starch-based, yeast-made fuels can compete virtually anywhere in the $3 trillion fossil fuels market.

“Oil [prices] will rise faster than carbohydrates over time,” he said.

Renewable Isobutanol: It’s Time for a Truce
May 18, 2015 | Jim Lane

By James Evangelow & Sam Nejame, Special to the Digest

If an advertising professional were writing the copy, renewable isobutanol would be called “The new and improved ethanol”. It overcomes essentially all the major deficiencies of ethanol as a fuel and can be produced in an ethanol plant. However, relentless litigation, waning interest in biofuels in general and meager investment are killing it.

Why isobutanol’s superior physical properties matter.
One of ethanol’s greatest drawbacks as a fuel is its high volatility. The nation’s base gasoline supply changed with the introduction of ethanol oxygenate. Inexpensive light ends were removed to produce the costlier Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending (RBOB) to compensate for ethanol’s high volatility in the finished blend. Butanol, on the other hand, has very low volatility, allowing blending without the need for RBOB and freeing the refiner to obtain higher margins for heavier cuts.

In addition, the molecule has nearly 20 percent higher energy density than ethanol. In fact it is sufficiently close to gasoline that it can be used at any blend ratio, even at 100 percent, obviating the need for Flex Fuel Vehicles. Testing this theory, physicist David Ramey, drove from Blacklick, Ohio to San Diego, California using 100 percent butanol in an unmodified 1992 Buick Park Avenue. The vehicle completed the trip without incident and achieved a 14 percent INCREASE in fuel mileage compared to 87 octane gasoline.

Butanol blends present other economic advantages to refiners and consumers.
California has the most stringent air emission standards in the country. As a result, California spec gasoline is specially formulated and not available outside the region. In 2012, a perfect storm of pipeline issues, refinery outages and potential market manipulation spiked gasoline prices in California to close to $5 per gallon for an unprecedented period of time. Had biobutanol been readily available for blending in neighboring states and piped to the California market this problem could have been averted.

Transportation and storage of butanol also has important advantages over ethanol.
Ethanol is extremely hygroscopic, making it corrosive to steel. For that reason, it cannot be transported by pipeline. Butanol’s much lower affinity for water make pipe distribution and refinery blending viable creating more favorable “cost in use”. Lower pipeline transportation cost plus the ability to tailor butanol blends at the refinery offset some of butanol’s higher price. Further, butanol has been approved for blending into marine gasoline, where ethanol is banned, reducing emissions of criteria pollutants on our waterways.

Butanol adoption would vault us over “the blend wall” and create benefits for farmers.
Because butanol has lower oxygen content than ethanol, EPA allows up to 16 percent butanol gasoline blends, compared to 10 percent for ethanol. If butanol were to completely replace ethanol in gasoline blends, national alcohol volume requirements would increase by 60 percent. Couple that with a 20 percent reduction in the nameplate capacity for retrofitted ethanol plants producing C4 instead of a C2 alcohol, and the blend wall would disappear without reducing the demand for corn. In fact, additional capacity would be needed along with feedstock supply. It’s important to note that the US now produces many billions of gallons more ethanol than when the food v. fuel debacle raged in 2008 and corn prices have dropped precipitously. Why? Because corn prices are pegged to the price of oil.

So why hasn’t biobutanol taken off and replaced ethanol?
Followers of renewable fuels well know the two major players developing isobutanol technology: Butamax, the DuPont/BP joint venture and Gevo. Not so very long ago things looked promising on all fronts as Gevo raised an impressive war chest, built innumerable strategic relationships and signed large off-take agreements. Meanwhile, Butamax created an Early Adopter Group with close to a billion gallons of installed capacity itching for retrofit. Both companies toured the corn belt, made friends and raised expectations.

Then in 2012, Gevo started up the world’s only isobutanol facility and promptly fell on its face – contaminations required a long shake down, tighter cleaner pots and pans, larger separations equipment and lots of additional capital. Capital that got more expensive and harder and harder to come by. Today, things have improved but only one of Gevo’s four fermentation trains is running isobutanol.

Theoretically Butamax has all the money and time to get it right, but a double oreo of big company political miasma has limited progress to a single corn oil separation unit for one ethanol producer. Current Butamax isobutanol production is zero. That’s not a lot to show for a nine year old JV.

Clearly no one expected this to be easy. To put the concept of a new biofuel of any sort in perspective, consider this: humans have been fermenting ethanol for thousands of wine soaked years. Industrial fermentation on the other hand is one hundred years old; and we’ve only been fermenting Isobutanol at any scale for ten years. Despite the improvements in the understanding of genetics, pathway engineering, etc. starting up and scaling an entirely new process remains a daunting task, ask anyone who’s melted heterogeneous catalyst at a petrochemical plant or started a brewery.

Both Gevo and Butamax share many similarities. Both use modified yeast, both utilize proprietary separation technology, both have built significant patent portfolios and both seek to license their technology to global ethanol producers. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that their patent portfolios overlap. What is surprising is that litigation over isobutanol intellectual property has gone to the US Supreme Court and still ownership somehow remains unresolved. Without a doubt this has hindered market development for isobutanol and despite what the parties will tell you the battle looks like it will continue to drag on. What has been lost in this battle is that they need each other to succeed.

Any way you slice it both companies are running out of time. Gevo’s finances have decayed to the point where it’s operating a skeleton crew, had to conduct a reverse stock split to remain on the NASDAQ and its last public financing was tiny, inadequate at even current burn and subject to arbitrage. Survival is questionable. On the other hand things at Butamax may not be much better. BP appears less and less committed to renewables, as primary oil prices have fallen. It recently auctioned off its cellulosic biofuels business (announcement soon) and Butamax executive CVs are reportedly on the street, leaving one to wonder if other non producing assets are to follow.

It’s easy to say it’s time for Gevo and Butamax to make peace, cross license their technologies, and work together to develop the market before it dies, but after all that’s happened between them it’s difficult to see how they can play nice on their own. Clearly, the Gevo technology works, it just needs an investor with patience and maybe some tweaks to management. While have no idea what the Butamax technology readiness level is, they sure have built quite a patent portfolio.

What has been lost in this battle is that they need each other to succeed. Consumers, refiners and ethanol producers are just less likely to accept isobutanol if there is only a single technology provider. Many issues remain, but one thing is for certain is something big doesn’t change soon isobutanol will join the list of other great ideas that never made it. We might as well call Butamax, Betamax and the Gevo-lution, DEVO-lution.

James Evangelow is President of Chemical Strategies, a consulting firm
focused on renewable and petroleum based chemicals and fuels. He is one of the world’s most sought after consultants in the field of synthetic and bio-based ethanol. He can be reached at [email protected].

Sam Nejame is CEO of Promotum, a management consulting firm focused on
technology commercialization. He has extensive experience in the field of petroleum and bio-based fuels and chemicals. He can be reached at [email protected].
BTW Campbell Cove is the gas station closest to our largest and busiest marina here on Havasu. Will be interesting how this works out and if the Standard Station near our marina on the island adds this to their pumps.
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