BYOB: Bio-Yachts On Butanol

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Jim Lane

Luxury YachtsIn Washington, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) announced support of the use of fuels blended with up to 16 percent biobutanol in recreational marine engines.

This decision follows five years of evaluation performed by NMMA with the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), under the direction and guidance of the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne National Laboratory, and in partnership with the US Coast Guard, Gevo and Butamax.

During this time, the NMMA has gathered a great amount of data supporting the viability of isobutanol as the preferred renewable fuel blendstock for gasoline-powered marine engines. The studies showed that isobutanol fuel blends are a preferable power source for the marina markets.

Biobutanol-blended fuels are especially valuable for use in marine engines, as they are highly resistant to phase separation in the presence of water and have been demonstrated to offer a high level of compatibility with the materials commonly employed in engines and fuel-handling equipment. Applicable for use in marine, automotive and other gasoline-fueled engines, 16 percent biobutanol blends offer a valuable option for growing the use of renewable fuels beyond what is achieved with 10 percent ethanol blends, moving the market toward the long term goals of the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard.

The formal announcement by the NMMA to endorse isobutanol as an industry-wide biofuel alternative comes as the fuel industry focuses on addressing the congressionally-mandated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into the gasoline supply by 2022.

NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of the boats, engines, trailers, accessories and gear used by boaters and anglers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Reaction from the isobutanol stakeholders

Jeff Wasil, BRP-Evinrude Engineering Manager for Emissions Testing, Certification & Regulatory Development and a key contributor to the NMMA biobutanol evaluation

Based on years of collaborative testing across the industry, biobutanol fuel blends, such as the ones provided by Gevo (GEVO) during our test program, are a safe and viable alternative to ethanol for use in recreational marine engines and boats up to 16.1 percent by volume.

Butamax CEO Paul Beckwith

The extensive work by NMMA and its partners, which enabled today’s announcement of support for 16 percent biobutanol blends, strengthens to the body of data supporting the value of biobutanol in the transportation fuels market. Butamax is continuing its work to secure required EPA and UL approvals for use of 16 percent biobutanol blends with existing road vehicles and dispensing infrastructure. The broad distribution which those approvals would enable will be key to making these blends widely and economically available for marine use.

Gevo CEO Dr. Patrick Gruber

We believe that the marine industry will be an important market for Gevo’s isobutanol. The technical properties of isobutanol shine in this application. We appreciate the efforts and the collaboration between Gevo and the NMMA throughout the testing program. We are pleased to have provided, from our plant in Luverne, the isobutanol needed to make the 16% isobutanol blended fuels that the studies required, for both on-water tests and in the laboratory,” said “We are delighted with the results of the testing and to have the endorsement of the NMMA. Isobutanol has proven to be an effective, highly compatible biofuel for the recreational boating industry.

Jim Lane is editor and publisher  of Biofuels Digest where this article was originally published. Biofuels Digest is the most widely read  Biofuels daily read by 14,000+ organizations. Subscribe here.

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