First some education for me, from wiki:
- isobutanol: C4H10, primarily a solvent; can be made naturally by fermentation
- famesene: a family of six closely related compounds, aromatics, found naturally
A company in California -- Intrexon Energy Partners -- has developed a method to convert natural gas to these compounds through "bioconversion."
The company needs a reliable source of natural gas and has partnered with Dominion Energy for that natural gas from the Marcellus and the Utica.
It takes a bit of looking but scroll down deeply in the wiki article where not less than 13 applications for isobutanol are listed. The very last one, almost a "throwaway," it seems, is "potential gasoline alternative." Most of the current applications for isobutanol: solvent, varnish remover, ink ingredient.
Actually, it would compete with ethanol. See this GreenTechMedia article from 2011.
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.For the archives.
By the way, at the GreenTechMedia article it was interesting to see who was behind some of this: Cargill.
A Little Chemistry
From the GreenTechMedia link:
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.I had come across isobutanol and its relevance to scotch somewhere in the past but I do not remember where.
I was sure it was in Heather Greene's book on whiskey but I was not able to find it.
These three books are the best books I've found on whiskey:
- Whisk(e)y Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life, Heather Greene, c. 2014 (probably the best overall book, written with wit; simply fun to read)
- Whisky, The Manuel, Dave Broom, c. 2014; best of the three for quickly finding best mixer (soda, ginger ale, cola, coconut water, or green tea) for a particular whiskey or whisky
- Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, 5th edition, c. 1989 - 2004; the "Bible" for Scotch drinkers, perhaps, but feels too much like a reference book. If interested in good reading, start with Heather Greene's book; take the "Bible" along when shopping