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BP, DuPont Form Ethanol Venture

Facility could be converted to biobutanol once technology is available

by Glenn Hess
July 2, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 27

DuPont research scientists at work in a biobutanol molecular biology lab.
Credit: DuPont
Credit: DuPont

BRITISH OIL GIANT BP is joining U.K. grain marketer Associated British Foods (ABF) and chemical maker DuPont to construct a $400 million plant in northeastern England to make ethanol from locally grown wheat beginning in late 2009.

The facility, in which BP and ABF will each hold a 45% share and DuPont the remaining 10%, will be built on BP's existing chemicals site in Saltend, Hull. It will have the capacity to produce about 110 million gal of ethanol per year. ABF plans to supply the wheat for the venture.

BP and DuPont also plan to build a technology research and demonstration facility at the site to produce the gasoline component biobutanol from feedstocks such as wheat, corn, barley, and rye. Biobutanol is a fermentation-derived version of n-butanol the companies introduced last year (C&EN, June 26, 2006, page 9).

Iain Conn, CEO of BP's refining and marketing business, said at a press conference in London that output from the ethanol plant will help meet rising U.K. demand for biofuels. Government rules mandate that 5% of transportation fuels must come from renewable sources by 2010.

Although the facility will initially produce ethanol, officials say the partners will look at the feasibility of converting it entirely to biobutanol once the required technology is available.

"Over the last year, we have accelerated the commercial development of biobutanol," says John Ranieri, head of DuPont Biofuels. "The demonstration facility, which will begin operation in early 2009, will develop the processing parameters and further advance the commercial deployment of our new technology."

Ranieri notes that demand for renewable transportation fuels will grow significantly in coming years. He says DuPont plans to increase its investment in the Hull facility once the biobutanol production process is developed and shown to be feasible.



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