A new biofuel being developed by BP is to be trialled for the first time at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the company announced today.
The advanced biofuel
, called biobutanol
, is being described as a "game-changer" by BP
, which will test it alongside two other advanced biofuels across the 5000 strong official London 2012
fleet being supplied by BMW during the Games. It is produced by a microorganism that converts plant sugars into a high energy density petrol biofuel. BP said as well as being greener than fossil fuels, it offers many advantages over other gasoline biofuels including delivering more miles to the gallon and providing greater compatibility with modern engines and existing oil infrastructure. BP estimates biobutonal has 85 per cent energy efficiency
over gasoline, compared to conventional ethanol which has around two thirds.
"Biobutonal is the poster child in terms of consumer benefits – it’s the next evolution of the gasoline biofuel," said Philip New, ceo of BP Biofuels. "It has a much higher energy density than ethanol so people will get more miles to the gallon and the other key benefit is that it's got great compatibility with all the infrastructure we use today, whether that is refineries and pipelines or terminals. It’s also got great compatibility with today’s engines so it really is a 'drop-in' solution, and therefore you can use more of it so you are able to get more biomass into your tank rather than fuel without modifying your engine."
Biobutanol is already allowed in gasoline blends at up to 15 per cent in markets such as Germany and France and 16 per cent in the US, but for the first time it will be trialled at the London Olympics in a gasoline blend of 24 per cent of biobutonal content. And BP said it had the potential to be blended at much higher concentrations without compromising performance.
Joint venture with Dupont
The biobutanol that is being trialled in the Games fleet is being produced in the UK at a demonstration plant in Hull from corn produced on British farms. It is part of a joint venture with Dupont called Butamax Advanced Biofuels.
BP said that existing bioethanol facilities could be easily converted to biobutanol and Butamax planned to carry out mutiple retrofits simultaneously in order to scale-up to commercialisation as soon as possible. However, New said he could not be sure when that would be.
"Initial retrofits will happen in America and then we’ll assess demand in Europe for it – we have capacity to do it, so it shouldn’t be too long thereafter," he said.
Other biofuel trials
The other two advanced biofuels being trialled at the Games include cellulosic ethanol, a liquid biofuel made by microorganisms that breaks down the fibrous part of 'woody’ plants, such as grasses, and then ferments them to produce ethanol, and sugar-to-diesel (S2D), which comes from a leading edge technology that converts sugar from plants such as sugar cane, into bio-oil, which in turn is converted into renewable oil. According to BP, S2D has the potential to deliver a 60 per cent carbon reduction
compared to fossil fuels and can be used in a variety of diesel applications.
"These breakthrough technologies will redefine biofuels," said New. "By incorporating them in the fuels for London 2012 we have taken the next generation of biofuels from the laboratory to the road."
BP said it was committed to building up a large-scale cellulosic ethanol business and planned to build a 36 million gallon a year commercial scale facility in Florida in the US. The cellulosic ethanol being trialled at London 2012 has come from BP’s demonstration plant in Louisiana.
The company said both its cellulosic ethanol and S2D biofuels were derived from sustainable crops, the former coming from high-yielding perennial energy grasses grown on low grade land in southern America, and the latter from sugar cane grown in Brazil on plantations many miles away from the Amazon rainforest.
This story was corrected at 11.10 am on July 19 2012. It incorrectly stated that biobutonal produced at the Butamax plant in Hull was produced from wheat. It is in fact produced from corn.
Like this story? Please subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter at the top of the page for more content like this.