Last year we told you about Butanol as a potential fuel for motor vehicles. Butanol is butyl alcohol derived from butane. It has a longer hydrocarbon chain length and it is fairly non-polar, so it is more similar to gasoline than it is ethanol. Butanol has been demonstrated to work in vehicles designed and calibrated for gasoline without modification. Butanol can be produced from biomass as well as fossil fuels, and both versions have the same chemical properties.
From the September 2014 issue of SnowTech (August 2014)
One of the isomers of Butanol is Isobutanol, as they have the same molecular formula but different chemical structures. Isobutanol is produced by the carbonylation of propylene. Isobutanol can be used as a biofuel substitute for gasoline and would serve as a replacement for ethanol. Ethanol is a first generation biofuel, and is used primarily as a gasoline additive in the petroleum infrastructure. Isobutanol is a second generation biofuel with several qualities that resolve issues presented by Ethanol.
Isobutanol’s properties make it an attractive biofuel. It has a relatively high energy density, 98% of that of gasoline, which is much higher than Ethanol. It does not readily absorb water from air, preventing the corrosion of engines and pipelines. It can be mixed at any proportion with gasoline, meaning the fuel can “drop into” the existing petroleum infrastructure as a replacement fuel or major additive. It can be produced from plant matter not connected to food supplies, preventing a fuel-price/food-price relationship.
So when we caught wind of BRP looking into the feasibility of using Isobutanol as an alternative fuel, it got our attention. BRP was recently named the 2014 winner of the Wisconsin Business Friend of the Environment Award for the unique emissions sampling equipment it developed in support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s search for a more environmentally friendly gasoline alternative.
“BRP is making great strides in the areas of marine engine emission reductions and biofuel research,” said Eric Bott, Director of Environmental and Energy Policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. “They’re not just improving the efficiency of their engines or viability of new potential fuels. They’re inventing the testing equipment necessary to prove these advancements.”
The emissions sampling equipment was developed at BRP’s Evinrude facility in Sturtevant to research Isobutanol, a biologically produced alternative fuel being tested in engines to identify if it could be a cleaner, more environmentally friendly substitute for gasoline.
“This is the first instrument designed specifically to measure and quantify engine exhaust emissions from in-use recreational boats,” said Jeff Wasil, BRP’s Engineering Manager on the project. “We are working closely with the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the American Boat and Yacht Council on a comprehensive test program which is leading toward a better understanding of exhaust emissions from recreational marine products.”
The award recognizes businesses that demonstrate environmental soundness in pollution prevention, innovative technology and environmental stewardship. The program aims to communicate to businesses, state policymakers and the public that these environmentally conscious practices have a positive impact on Wisconsin.
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