Will Butanol be the death knell for inferior Ethanol?

Chemical maker DuPont (DD) said Tuesday that it will begin marketing biofuels for the transportation sector next year through a partnership with oil company BP (BP).

The companies said a collaboration they began in 2003 has advanced to the point where they plan to introduce butanol made from sugar beets as a gasoline blending component in the United Kingdom.

DuPont and BP are working with British Sugar, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, to convert the UK's first ethanol fermentation plant to produce biobutanol. They also are looking at the feasibility of building larger plants in the United Kingdom.

"We believe the time is right for this science and we can help grow the market for biofuel," said DuPont chairman and chief executive officer Charles Holliday.

"Today's announcement is good news for farmers, good news for consumers, good news for the environment and good news for shareholders," Holliday said.

Like ethanol, butanol is an alcohol compound, but with four carbon atoms instead of two. DuPont says the different chemical structure of butanol gives it several advantages over ethanol, including tolerance to water contamination, which makes it more suitable for transportation via pipeline.

The U.S. fuel market has been constrained by the fact that ethanol, which attracts water molecules and therefore tends to corrode pipelines, must be transported on trucks, trains and barges in relatively small batches to storage terminals where it is blended with gasoline.

Another advantage of biobutanol, officials say, is that it can be blended into gasoline at higher concentrations than ethanol without the need to retrofit vehicles, and it offers better fuel economy than gasoline-ethanol blends. More of this informative AP article.

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