GS Caltex to Put World’s 1st Biobutanol Plant Online
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GS Caltex to Put World’s 1st Biobutanol Plant Online
Demo plant to be completed this year will go on stream early next year to turn out 4 mln tons of bio energy product annually with technologies developed after 7 years of R&D

27(Fri), Oct, 2017

A bird’s eye view of the projected Biobutanol plant being built in the GS Caltex Yeosu Oil Refinery Complex in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province.

A staff checks the biobutanol as it is produced experimentally at its plant in the GS Caltex Yeosu Oil Refinery Complex.(Photos: GS Cal)

GS Caltex has been pushing a project to produce biobutanol from sugar, starch, straw and wood, as it is one of three major bio energies along with bio diesel and bio ethanol.

The oil company has been building a demo plant for the biobutanol on a 15,000 square meter plot of land in its Yeosu Oil Refinery Complex in South Jeolla Province.

The oil refiner invested 50 billion won in the project, which is slated for completion at the end of this year, and will have a capacity to turn out 4 million tons of biobutanol when it goes on stream early next year.

The bio energy product can replace butanol used in paints, adhesives and inks, and also can be mixed with gasoline to fuel engines to power cars, and the usual gasoline-burning engines don’t need to be touched up to burn the gasoline mixed with biobutanol. The new petrochemical product can be stored in the existing storages for gasoline and transported in regular gasoline tanks without being touched up as it doesn’t easily dissolve in water and doesn’t get corroded easily.

The oil company began R&D on the new bio energy product in 2007 and got the official approval from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy for the new technology to produce the new energy product in 2004, after seven years. It received the Green Technology license from the Ministry of Environment last year.

The company has applied for over 40 patent rights for technologies related with the bio-butanol at home and abroad.

Biobutanol is an alternative fuel produced from biomass such as sugar, starch, straw or wood. It can be used as a transportation fuel in vehicles with internal combustion engines without any additional modifications.

Biobutanol or Biobased Butanol Fuel is second generation alcoholic fuel with a higher energy density and lower volatility vs. ethanol. Over a dozen companies are focused on developing biobutanol on commercial scale. This is a true biofuel for masses with potential of little or no impact on food supply and ability to compete favorably with $80 bbl oil. Effort is focused on both fermentation of sugars, starch and other biomass and through pyrolysis and reformulation of biomass. The secondary appeal of biobutanol is its variety of commercial uses in an existing market worth over $5 billion dollar

Currently, another biofuel, bioethanol, is widely used in the transportation industry. But it easily absorbs moisture which corrodes metal parts. However, according to company officials, biobutanol can be used without further investment in infrastructure as it is low in solubility and corrosiveness.

Even though domestic research on biobutanol started in the 1980s, full-scale research commenced in the late 2000s, and GS Caltex took eight years from 2007 to develop this new generation fuel, they said. Meanwhile, the petroleum-based butanol’s global supply hit 3,970 kilo tons in 2013, in which Asia took up 50 percent of the total market. The global butanol market is expected to exceed over 4,980 kilo tons in 2018, according to industry watchers.

Bio-butanol can be converted into efficient fuel when mixed with gasoline, because of its high energy density, the company explained.

It can also replace petroleum-based butanol, used in making coatings, glue and so on.

GS Caltex has been focusing on the development of Biobutanol as a new next generation-environmentally friendly fuel oil among its R&D activities at its Technology Institute in the Yeosu Oil Refinery Complex in South Jeolla Province, which was set up to improve the quality of its oil products so they are more competitive in the market. 

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