Green fuel funding

An Oxfordshire biotechnology company is set to develop a low-cost biofuel, with £250,000 funding from the DTI’s Technology Programme and £310,000 from shareholder investors and business angels.

Green Biologics plans to develop a way of manufacturing biobutanol, a ‘next generation’ biofuel for transport, which will cut the cost of production by up to a third. Biobutanol is currently used as a chemical feed for stock but high production costs have prevented it being widely used as a fuel.

Biobutanol is produced by the clostridial (bacterial) fermentation of starch and sugars, a process first commercialised in 1916 to produce acetone for munitions for the war effort but which was displaced in the 1950s by a cheaper petrochemical method.

The UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) will, from April 2008, require fuel suppliers to ensure that an increasing percentage of their total fuel sales are made up of biofuels by 2020. The Government intends that biobutanol should count as a renewable transport fuel under the RTFO. The Government is due to consult on the details of the RTFO very shortly.

Green Biologics is partnering with EKB Technology, a specialist in innovative process technology, to develop an advanced fermentation process for butanol with improved yields and productivity and to demonstrate lower production costs for its Butafuel product.

Green Biologics CEO Dr Edward Green said: ‘The major barrier to butanol production has been the high cost of the conventional starch fermentation process. Our expertise in microbial strain development, together with EKB’s innovative process technology and the use of non-edible food stocks, should lead to a step change in the economic viability of the manufacturing process – we are aiming for a two to three fold reduction in cost. We are effectively using our knowledge of enzymology, microbial physiology and fermentation to optimise and ‘re-commercialise’ the butanol fermentation process.’