Public input sought for alternative to ethanol fuels

Butamax Advanced Biofuels seeks EPA approval to register biobutanol as an additive.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A manufacturer of biobutanol wants to be able to use the additive in gasoline, according to a Federal Register notice issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Butamax Advance Biofuels specifically submitted an application to register biobutanol – also known as isobutanol – as a gasoline additive at up to 16 volume percent.

Public comment on the application will be accepted through April 30.

“Butamax has submitted information that would likely satisfy the applicable registration requirements,” the EPA stated in its public notice. “The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to register a fuel or fuel additive once all the applicable registration requirements have been met by the manufacturer. Due to the potential for the widespread introduction of isobutanol into commerce, we are taking steps to make the public aware of the likelihood of this registration.

“We are seeking public comment regarding any issues we should take into consideration for this registration and any supplemental actions we should consider under the Clean Air Act to further protect public health and welfare,” the EPA notice continued.

There has been a push in some corners of the marine manufacturing industry to make biobutanol more readily available for boaters. Biobutanol is better for recreational boats than ethanol, these voices have urged.

Several boating advocacy groups, such as National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and BoatUS, have long stated fuels containing 15 percent ethanol or more are harmful to recreational boat engines. The NMMA has called biobutanol a “boat-friendly fuel.”

Biobutanol, however, could be added to gasoline at a higher percentage without being corrosive to a recreational vessel’s engine, it has been argued.

The isobutonal additive was clearly defined in the EPA notice.

“Isobutanol is a flammable colorless liquid that is used as a gasoline additive and as an industrial solvent,” the EPA notice explained. “Isobutanol is composed of the chemical elements hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon and it can be made from petroleum or renewable biomass, such as corn, grasses, agricultural waste and other renewable sources. It can be used in internal combustion engines as an additive to gasoline.”

NMMA has urged boaters to submit comments to the EPA en masse, hoping such a campaign would eventually lead to biobutanol becoming readily available on the market.

The advocacy group specifically launched a take action campaign on Boating United (

“The EPA is evaluating whether to make isobutanol available to the public. Isobutanol is a boat-friendly alternative to E15,” NMMA staff stated on its Boating United campaign page. “The marine industry has done significant testing on isobutanol and determined it to be an ideal solution for marine engines. NMMA is working hard to get isobutanol approved for on-highway use and made widely available in retail gas stations.”

Questions about the EPA notice can be directed to James W. Caldwell, an environmental engineer with the Compliance Division of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality; he can be reached at 202-343-9303 or

Comments can be submitted online at and searching for docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0131.

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