BP, DuPont joint venture acquires Kansas ethanol plant

By EPM Staff | April 03, 2017

Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, a joint venture between BP and DuPont to commercialize the production of bioisobutanol, has acquired a small corn ethanol plant in Scandia, Kansas. 

Butamax will immediately begin the detailed engineering work to add bioisobutanol capacity to the 10-MMgy Nesika Energy LLC facility, while continuing to produce ethanol before and after the retrofit. The plan is to use the plant as a demonstration facility to prove out the Butamax technology before licensing it broadly.

According to Butamax, bioisobutanol is a cost-effective alternative to traditional isobutanol derived from fossil feedstocks. Produced from renewable feedstocks, bioisobutanol offers both a valuable option for growing the renewable content of gasoline and a lower carbon alternative to fossil-derived isobutanol in existing chemical applications. 

As a fuel, it can be blended with gasoline in high concentrations without compromising compatibility or performance, according to Butamax. Furthermore, the company states, bioisobutanol blends do not suffer from water solubility issues, which means they can be transported via existing fuel pipelines. In the chemicals industry, it is used both directly and as an important building block for a wider range of products.

“With the largest operated renewables business among the major oil companies, BP is committed to being a part of the global transition to a lower-carbon future,” said Dev Sanyal, BP’s chief executive of alternative energy. “We invest in renewables where we believe we can build commercially viable businesses at scale, and this project, which brings together BP’s and DuPont’s complementary expertise, is another important step in that direction.”

William Feehery, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences, added, “To drive growth in U.S. manufacturing, we must employ disruptive thinking and innovation to unlock the power of renewable raw materials. With the purchase and planned build out of the Nesika facility to include bioisobutanol production, Butamax is taking the next step forward in advancing the bioeconomy, which supports economic growth and opportunity in rural communities.”

Welcoming Nesika’s existing employees onto the Butamax team, Butamax CEO Stuart Thomas said, “The Nesika facility will serve to demonstrate our technology at scale as well as validate process and biocatalyst improvements. Our plan is to broadly license our technology, and Nesika and the technology deployed at the site will play a key role in that activity.”

DuPont, BP and Butamax worked collaboratively with the state of Kansas to bring the deal to completion. “We are pleased that Butamax has selected Kansas as the home of its first production facility,” said Kansas Secretary of Commerce Antonio Soave. “Kansas is a great state to locate for innovative, biobased businesses looking for a skilled workforce, locally-grown feedstocks and bioeconomy expertise.”

Jerry Stowell, president of the board of directors of Nesika Energy, added, “We see Nesika Energy’s future to be full of growth and opportunity as a result of this sale to Butamax. The board and all the investor owners are proud of Nesika’s past success and are excited that now, as a part of Butamax, Nesika will play an important role in the development of this new bioisobutanol product while continuing to be an important member of this community.”

Butamax plans to license its proprietary bioisobutanol technology beyond this first facility on a global scale. When the newly acquired facility in Kansas has bioisobutanol production capability, it will be used as a demonstration facility for potential licensees to see the technology in operation and serve as a proving ground for future developments.