Methods and Processes for Producing Butyrate Esters from Sugars

A method and process for producing butyrate esters for use as novel biofuels.These products have a similar energy content to biobutanol, but are easier to produce.

The Need

Currently, bioethanol is the major biofuel on the market, but recently butanol has gotten attention for its potential as a transportation fuel. It has many characteristics that make it a better fuel source than ethanol: butanol has 25% more Btu per gallon, it's less evaporative/explosive with a Reid vapor pressure 7.5 times lower than ethanol, it has a higher flashpoint, it's more miscible with gasoline and diesel fuel and less miscible with water, and butanol is noncorrosive, offering a safer fuel that can be dispersed through existing pipelines and filling stations. Butanol production is done almost exclusively via petrochemical routes, and the process is very inefficient and expensive.

The Technology

Researchers at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Shang-Tian Yang, have developed a new method for the production of butyrate esters as novel biofuels. Butyrate esters have similar energy content and properties to biobutanol but are easier to produce via acid fermentation than biobutanol from sugars. The method to make the esters involves butyric acid fermentation followed with esterification with an alcohol. Butyric acid and ethanol can be more easily and economically produced by using existing fermentation technologies. The invented process can be used in an integrated biorefinery to produce both high-value products and advanced biofuels from biomass and food processing wastes.

Commercial Applications

  • Biofuels
  • Industrial solvents

Benefits/ Advantages

  • Similar energy content and properties to biobutanol
  • Easier to produce than current biofuels
  • Can be produced economically to compete with bioethanol from low-cost feedstocks
  • Commercial production of organic acids and esters from renewable sources can replace current petroleum-based products on the market

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