Isobutanol blend performs well in marine tests

By Matt Soberg | November 23, 2011

An isobutanol gasoline blend, provided by Gevo Inc., tested well as an alternative marine fuel according the report released Nov. 18 by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the American Boat and Yacht Council. The organizations conducted two tests, an emissions test and product test, to  evaluate various components in the marine environment including inboard, outboard, jet pump and two-stroke engines.

The results showed isobutanol reduces CO2 emissions compared to indolene, the standard gasoline used for engine testing, according to NMMA. Isobutanol shows similar hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions to gasoline.

On the products and performance side, isobutanol provides 30 percent more energy content than ethanol and does not cause phase separation when water enters a boat’s fuel system, which is a major benefit for the marine industry. Isobutanol carries approximately 86 percent of the energy content of gasoline, compared to 68 percent for ethanol, according to the NMMA.

 “The product attributes of isobutanol, made in retrofitted ethanol plants, can solve the problems associated with current generation biofuels,” said Chris Ryan, president and COO of Gevo. “Isobutanol is compatible will all gasoline engines and infrastructure like pipelines and fuel pumps. These benefits make it a very promising biofuel additive that can help the nation achieve greater energy independence and align the interests of farmers, ethanol plant owners, refiners, engine manufacturers and consumers.” 

“We are pleased with the results of the evaluation on isobutanol and look forward to more testing on this, and other important alternatives to E15,” said NMMA President Thom Dammrich. The research was supported by Bombardier Recreational Products and Volvo through product, personnel and testing equipment.  

The U.S. DOE has designated isobutanol as a “drop-in biofuel,” according to the NMMA.  In accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, isobutanol can be used to displace petroleum, which could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.