Biobutanol is another form of liquid fuel like ethanol that is distilled from biomass sources. The 63-3 vote in favor Tuesday puts Senate Bill 100 on track to the governor’s desk next, for his decision whether to sign it into law.
Redfield Energy is in the process of converting its plant from ethanol production to biobutanol production, Rep. Jim White, R-Huron, said.
One advantage will be shipping.
“Biobutanol can be transported in the pipeline, while ethanol cannot,” White said. “Biobutanol doesn’t have to trucked or railed.”
The Redfield plant will be the largest biobutanol facility in the nation. A second one is planned in Luverne, Minn.
“There will be more to come,” Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown, said. “This is the way of the future.”
Redfield Energy chief executive officer Tom Hitchcock testified previously to legislators. The plant is about two miles south of Redfield and employs 42 people. He said the plant used nearly 20 million bushels of corn and produced more than 55 million gallons of ethanol last year.
Construction work for the conversion is scheduled for later this year, with production expected to start in 2013, he said. He put the retrofit’s cost at $30 million or more. He said the plan calls for switching back to ethanol production if economics make that more favorable. He said about the same bushels of grain would be used.
Corn, sugar cane, agricultural residue and wood could be used. Hitchcock said corn will be the feed stock at Redfield. The biobutanol process produces a molecule similar to what would come from petroleum. He said bio-based jet fuel presents a big opportunity for the product. Diesel fuel is another possibility.
“This is truly next-generation ethanol,” Rep. Mark Willadsen, R-Sioux Falls, said Monday. “It’s leading technology. South Dakota has the opportunity to be at the forefront.”
State energy-policy director Hunter Roberts, speaking on behalf of the Daugaard administration, said last week that the governor supports the legislation. He said South Dakota ethanol plants already employ about 900 and produce 1 billion gallons annually.
“This could open other opportunities in the future,” Roberts said about the change.