Has ethanol lost its license to drive corn market?
Biobutanol is considered a “drop-in” fuel, since does not required a specific blend percentage, can be transported in trucks or pipelines with regular gasoline, and have a much closer combustion and mileage performance to gasoline than does ethanol. While the octane rating of biobutanol is less than ethanol is more than gasoline, but while the energy content of ethanol is only 66% of gasoline, the biobutanol energy content is 90% of gasoline. The corn market should benefit, since biobutanol will be an added product and not replace ethanol. We are likely in the early days of biobutanol, since production costs are not yet established, and Wisner says only 2-3 ethanol plants are being converted to biobutanol plants at this time. He says, “If it proves to be competitive with ethanol and regulatory issues can be resolved, biobutanol may contribute significantly to future growth in value-added demand for corn.”
Part of the steam lost in the corn market has resulted from the leveling off in the demand for corn by ethanol refiners. This slowdown came from ethanol reaching the maximum of 10% of the nation’s motor fuel supply, then the demand for motor fuel declining because of the economy. However, biobutanol, which is an advanced biofuel that can be made at ethanol plants with some modification, has the potential to replace gasoline without a limiting percentage blend. Its octane rating is higher than gas, its energy content is higher than ethanol, and it provides better mileage than either ethanol or gasoline.