Biofuel, Company initiatives, Processing, R&D

New bio-butanol player: Optinol

There’s a new kid in the bio-butanol town.

I saw this press release last night while I was going through my newsfeed and this is the first time I’ve heard of San Francisco-based Optinol — a collaborative venture between SynGest Inc. (which is working on biomass-based fertilizers), Unitel Technologies, and Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.

The company is focusing on developing cellulosic sugar-based n-butanol mostly for biofuel application. Optinol announced that it was able to achieve energy cost parity with ethanol for its n-butanol production at pilot scale using a wide variety of sugars such as sugarcane juice, corn starch, sweet sorghum juice, molasses and cellulosic sugars.

According to the company, instead of tailoring the organism to existing production processes (such as what Gevo, Cobalt and Butamax have been doing), Optinol is engineering a production solution tailored to the organism (a patented non-GMO clostridium strain) that naturally produces and prolifically favors production of butanol without the co-product acetone or ethanol.

The net result is a lower-cost butanol at price competitive with ethanol, the company said.

The bulk of the laboratory and pilot work has been conducted at Louisiana State University. The company is now targeting optimization of the extraction medium.

“The Optinol process centers on continuous flow through fermentation of our organism in inexpensive immobilized cell columns”, said Ravi Randhava, PhD, CTO of Optinol Inc. “Low cost fermentation combined with low cost continuous extraction and low energy distillation processes provide the basis for a low cost commercially robust production platform”.

You can read more recent updates on bio-butanol in previous post yesterday.

Photo Source: The Energy and Resources Institute (terriin.og)

I also wanted to add this recent news from the University of Michigan regarding bio-isobutanol produced from feeding a combined fungus Trichoderma reesei and E.coli bacteria with corn stalks and leaves or switchgrass.

The fungus break down the tough plant material while the E.coli had been engineered to convert sugars into isobutanol.

The researchers reportedly managed to get 1.88 grams of isobutanol per liter of fluid in their bioreactor. They are now trying to improve their energy conversion rate and increase the tolerance of the fungi and E.coli to isobutanol.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the U-M Office of the Vice President for Research. The university is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


One Response to “New bio-butanol player: Optinol”

  1. wooo
    …using a non-GMO clostridium strain,
    …low energy process…
    at last, a bio butnaol competitive with ethanol !

    so, looks like Optinol made it, the ABE revolution ?!

    believe it …or not

    we’ll watch for their IPO !

    Posted by oru2day | August 22, 2013, 11:51 am

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