LanzaTech joins DOE in butanediol R&D

I was too sick last week to post anything but I’m recovering enough now to hopefully be able to post last week’s news, maybe one interview, and then I’m off for some Black Friday shopping to support the economy and the chemical industry (I will do my best…)

LanzaTech sent me this news on November 17 about their project with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to develop drop-in jet fuel using waste gas-based 2,3 butanediol (2,3-BD) as feedstock.

Now I’ve been confused with butanediols since I always encountered 1,4 butanediol (BDO) in previous posts (such as Genomatica’s project) but I guess 2,3 BD is quite different and I have not really gotten much market information on this particular building block except a couple of research studies. I am guessing that there is not really a commercial market for 2,3 BD or if there is, it’s a very small one although anybody reading this, pls. let me know if I’m wrong.

I have not yet spoken to LanzaTech but I’m planning to do it soon. According to various bits and pieces found on the web, 2,3-BD is typically produced by a variety of microorganism in an anaerobic fermentation of glucose. I have not yet found any mention that 2,3-BD can be produced via petrochemical processing.

Like 1,4 BDO, 2,3-butanediol also known as 2,3-butylene glycol can be used as a chemical building block to produce solvents, polymers, resins and fuel. With a heating value of 27,200 Joules/gram, BD is said to be favorably comparable to ethanol (29,100 J/g) and methanol (22,100 J/g) for use as a liquid fuel and fuel additive.

This is what LanzaTech and PNNL are looking to develop under the sanction of the US Department of Energy (DOE). The first phase of the development project is expected to be done within a year with the DOE funding and LanzaTech contributing to it. By how much is another question to ask LanzaTech. PNNL by the way, is a national laboratory of the DOE and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle.

For some other fun facts about 2,3-BD, dehydration of this chemical leads to methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) production and then further dehydration yields 1,3 butanediene which is the starting material for synthetic rubber and as an important monomer for the polymer industry.

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