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Optinol hits ethanol energy cost parity feasibility for butanol

By Optinol Inc. | August 23, 2013

Optinol Inc. announced that the company has achieved energy cost parity feasibility with ethanol for the production of biobutanol (n-butanol) from a wide variety of sugars. Based on preliminary engineering studies to estimate the capital and operating costs for commercial scale production, the company has concluded that it is feasible to produce bio-butanol at cost parity with ethanol.

“Optinol has taken an alternative approach to producing butanol compared to companies like Gevo, Cobalt and Butamax,” said Jack Oswald, interim CEO of Optinol. “In lieu of genetic modification of the organism or other hosts such as yeast or E.coli, the Optinol process uses a patented non-GMO clostridium strain that naturally and prolifically favors the production of butanol, and without acetone or ethanol.”

The Optinol team chose to engineer a production solution tailored to the organism rather than trying to tailor the organism to existing production processes. The net result is a high yield and commercially robust process to produce low cost butanol at a price competitive with ethanol.

“The Optinol process centers on continuous flow through fermentation of our organism in inexpensive immobilized cell columns”, said Ravi Randhava, chief technology officer of Optinol. “Low cost fermentation combined with low cost continuous extraction and low energy distillation processes provide the basis for a low cost commercially robust production platform”.

The process has been tested with a wide variety of feedstocks including sugar cane juice, corn starch, sweet sorghum juice, molasses types including sugar cane and beets and cellulosic sugars. All forms of sugar performed equally well. The bulk of the lab and pilot work has been conducted at Louisana State University. Final feasibility studies are targeting optimization of the extraction medium.

Unlike ethanol, bio-butanol is hydrophobic and has similar energy content to that of gasoline. As such, it can be transported in standard pipelines without corrosion and other water-based issues caused by ethanol.