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Production of Butanol

A patent pending process for production of 2-butanol

from mixed sugars in hydrolysates of hemicellulose

And also from glucose

Figure 1: Four Steps to Ethanol and Butanol

Cellulosics such as cornstalks

Hemicellulose Hemicellulose
Pretreatment conversion

Cellulose Butanol
4A Processing Cellulases

Mixed Sugars from Hemicellulose

Hydrolysis of hemocellulose generates a mixture of

mono-saccharides, including pentoses (C5) such as
xylose and arabinose and hexoses (C6) such as galactose
and mannose.

Conversion of C6 and C5 Monosaccharides

to 2,3-Butanediol by Bacterial Fermentation

A little chemistry:

C6H12O6 = CH3CHOHCHOHCH3 + 2CO2 + H2

180 90 2x44 2

Practical yield of bacterial fermentation has been

about 90% of the theoretical maximum.

A few words about 2,3-butanediol

1. Fermentation of mixed sugars to generate


2. Two pounds of mixed sugars will yield one pound

of 2,3-butanediol

3. Easy anaerobic fermentation to exhaust all soluble

sugars leaving little BOD

4. 2,3-Butanediol useful as an antifreeze agent

A Little More Chemistry

Dehydration of 2,3-butanediol will generate methyl ethyl

ketone (MEK) nearly quantitatively
(yield of 90 plus %)


90 72 18

MEK from Mixed Sugars of Hemicellulose

1. Direct conversion to MEK without first purifying


2. Two pounds of mixed sugars can yield

0.8 pound of MEK

3. Adaptable to continuous operation with

a tubular reactor packed with solid catalyst

4. Reaction complete with little pollution of concern

A Few Words about MEK

MEK is currently a product of petrochemical processing.

Its price has increased from a long-term stable value

of $0.52 to over $1.00 per pound since crude oil price
increases in the last two years.

MEK has an annual volume of about 700,000

tons worldwide.

What is beyond MEK? Butanol! Why Butanol?

Gasoline (average C6H14): 20,200 BTU/lb

Butanol (C4H10O): 14,200 BTU/lb
Ethanol (C2H6O): 12,800 BTU/lb

Ethanol and butanol contain oxygen and can both be

used as oxygenates for gasoline.

A Few Words About Butanol

Butanol contains more energy, is more hydrocarbon-like,

and blends easier with gasoline than ethanol.
Butanol does not adsorb moisture from air.
Without moisture, butanol causes no corrosion.
Butanol and butanol-gasoline blends can be transported
through existing pipelines, without expensive trucking.
Major oil companies show more interests
in butanol than ethanol.

Still a Little More Chemistry


MEK 2-butanol

Theoretical weight yield:

100 grams of MEK can produce 103 grams of 2-butanol

Practical yield: 90% of the theoretical

Process in Three Steps

1. Fermentation to convert sugars to 2,3-butanediol

2. Chemical dehydration of 2,3-butanediol to

form methyl ethyl ketone, a marketable
intermediate product

3. Hydrogenation of methyl ethyl ketone to produce


Overall yield

100 grams of C6 or C5 sugars from hemicellulose

hydrolysis will yield 34.5 grams of 2-butanol.

Approximately, 1 ton of 2-butanol from 3 tons of sugars

from starch, cellulose and hemicellulose or 100 gallons
of 2-butanol per ton of sugars.

There are Four Butanol Isomers

n-Butanol CH3CH2CH2CH2OH

2-Butanol CH3CH2CHOHCH3

iso-Butanol (CH3)2CHCH2OH

t-Butanol (CH3)3COH

t-Butanol (CH3)3COH

t-Butanol is a product of petrochemical processing. No

known biological process can produce t-butanol.

n-Butanol CH3CH2CH2CH2OH

n-butanol is one of three products of ABE fermentation that predated

the petrochemical industry. Acetone, Butanol and Ethanol are
produced in the ratio of 3:6:1. The high toxicity of butanol towards
the bacterial cells that produce it limits the final concentration of
butanol to 14 g/L. The industry disappeared after petro-processing
became popular.

The process suffers from low yield, high cost of separation of co-
products and handling of strictly anaerobic conditions. Recent
interest in biofuels promoted renewed studies of ABE fermentation.
A higher concentration of 18 g/L has reportedly been achieved.

iso-Butanol (CH3)2CHCH2OH

iso-Butanol exists in very small quantities in the “fusel oil”

of beverage alcohol fermentation. Genetically modified
microbial cells have achieved higher yield. It is not as
toxic as n-butanol but the final concentration is still no
more than about 60 g/L as reported.

Comparing n-, 2-, iso-, and t-Butanol

n-butanol is made from glucose only by a strict anaerobic bacterial

fermentation that is hard to handle and n-butanol toxicity limits the
final broth to 1.4% n-butanol.

iso-butanol is also a fermentation product of and the toxicity limits

the final concentration to only 6%.

t-butanol is not a product of biotechnology.

2-butanol is made from fermentation using C5 and also C6 sugars to

produce intermediate 2,3-butanediol that has inhibitory effect only
after the concentration reaches 11 plus %.