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Butanol - Alternative or Not?


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Hi All

Back even before I was filling my Nissan with "freezable" diesel, I was part of a international test of Butanol, which was run on an old 5 cylinder Passat (Shame, nasty to call it now an old car, she ran like the clappers!).

The purpose was that Butanol is a more practical alternative to Methanol or Ethanol, since it requires no modification to the basic fuel system pipes/feeds/etc. Although my data was comprehensive, I no longer have rights to certain parts of it, so I can only give you my opinion and generalisations gathered from the tests on my own vehicle.

1. Butanol can be made organically, the same as Ethanol can be made, it takes a bit of effort, but can be done for around the same cost, or less.

2. Butanol does not require "food stock". There is a concern that Alternative fuels might take away the need for guys like Chris to keep providing us food, if fuel becomes more profitable. Butanol is not as easy as Biodiesel to make yourself, but also is primarily (when Alternatively) made from Algae, rather than Cane.

3. There are NO modifications ness for many vehicles, and only a possible timing (may be computer controlled on later model cars) adjustment. My Passat ran perfectly for 18 months on PURE (no normal fuel) Butanol. Ethanol, can only do 15% mix on even ready cars (look up Brazil's info), and nothing close to 100% (ethanol and methanol will eat all the rubber/plastic on standard cars unless parts are changed).

4. Butanol STINKS! - In your mind think of Paint Stripper, this is almost how bad it smells before/during the time it goes into the tank. I am sure in a non-test environment they can improve that, but it will always be a bit of a nose assault.

5. Power Loss - Alternative fuels often are lossy compared to Petroleum, and that is true for Butanol as well. But that is just what I know from the stats. A Weber carbed, 2.1l Passat felt no different (or maybe I got a small bit used to it), and was completely driveable without really experiencing any difference.

6. So it's great, why aren't I still using it? Unfortunately Butanol in SA is made by SASOL, and their pricing is always based on the current fuel price. So the proper N-Butanol (the flavour you want) seems always to be at least 30% above the fuel price. Also to bear in mind is the fact that SASOL manufacture their Butanol (PS: SASOL have one of the largest Butanol plants worldwide), from Fossil Fuel, not the bio process, so no real advantage even for the "green" team.

So, keep this alternative in mind, and feel free to research the small info out there. Just saying that I gave it a try (I wasn't paid for testing, and am not paid now for promoting). Not saying you should drop everything and use it, I just want to make you aware of an alternative that has been often overlooked, and yet has proof and testing. (PS: There are rumours that SASOL ran tests as well, and haven't published their results - Wonder why?)

Permission for limited information disclosed - DavidR (13/04/2016)

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