Idemitsu Kosan and RITE Working on Production of Cellulosic Biobutanol

Nikkei. Petroleum and petrochemical company Idemitsu Kosan and Japan’s Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) recently formed a joint research team to develop a way to mass-produce cellulosic biobutanol.

The partners aim to build a test plant around 2013 and begin full-on production around 2020.

The process for making biobutanol starts with rice straw, corn stalks and other inedible vegetable matter, which is converted into sugar and placed in a fermenting vat with bacteria genetically engineered by RITE. The bacteria turn the sugar into biobutanol. Idemitsu and RITE aim to develop a process for making 300 liters of the fuel from every ton of vegetable matter.

The partners reckon that mass production will lower the price of biobutanol to about 30-40 yen a liter, about the same as ethanol, making it an affordable alternative to gas and petrochemicals. They will consider building a company out of the research team.

RITE has been collaborating with Honda on the production of cellulosic ethanol and also biobutanol since 2006. (Earlier post.)


  • M. Inui, M. Suda, S. Kimura, K. Yasuda, H. Suzuki, H. Toda, S. Yamamoto, S. Okino, N. Suzuki and H. Yukawa (2008) Expression of Clostridium acetobutylicum butanol synthetic genes in Escherichia coli. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 77: 1305-1316 doi: 10.1007/s00253-007-1257-5

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